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Something Different Under the Sun 

The sun is the continuous underlying source of all life on earth. When it dies, so does the planet.

Fortunately, humanity has about 5 billion years to find some other suitable real estate to inhabit in the cosmos.

Since the emergence of the modern Homo sapiens about 200,000 years ago, humans have looked to the sky in awe. Many early religions worshipped a sun god and virtually all contemporary religions have sacred sunrise and sunset prayers and rituals. In all cultures, the sun figures prominently in children’s art as a big, bright yellow or orange disc. The strength and quality of sunlight is also an essential factor in much highly esteemed European art. One need only think of the French impressionists and Dutch masters like Auguste Renoir and Jan Vermeer.

Astronomers in both China and Europe observed sunspots over 2,300 years ago. They really did not know what to make of them. The dark spots appeared to be blemishes on creation.

During this pre-Christian period, Aristarchus of Stamos, an exceptionally clever Greek, did some elegant math and hypothesized that the earth actually revolved around the sun. Of course, he was denounced, then ignored, and ultimately forgotten for more than a millennium and a half. The 16th century Polish polymath Nicolaus Copernicus and 17th century Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei verified that humanity was indeed not the center of the known universe.

While their models did not answer all celestial questions, they firmly established that we orbit our sun and that nothing of real cosmic significant revolves around us. Their supreme scientific insights into the heliocentric nature of our solar system were actively challenged and suppressed by the Catholic Church.

Fortunately, by the mid-19th century, most educated people had a rough but reasonable idea of where humans ultimately fit in the scheme of things.

One of the greatest achievements of the 20th century was the launch and ongoing operation of the Hubble telescope in 1960 by NASA. It gave the best scientific and mathematical brains on our planet an unobscured peek at a seemingly endless number of galaxies in our expanding universe. Hubble images also gave astounding new attention to our closest star, so that dark sunspots and solar flares were finally seen for what they were — gargantuan magnetic energy events that boggle the mind.

Sunspots can be as wide as 100,000 miles in diameter and flares can pack the energy of 25,000 one-hundred-megaton H-bombs.

While we can mathematically utilize these magnitudes, can we truly perceive them? With the evolution of cognition so sensitively tied to our earth-bound environment, what does it mean to say that the core of the sun is 27,000,000 degrees Fahrenheit?

These solar events have the power to seriously disrupt satellite communication and power grids on our planet. There is so much potential interference that we still don’t really understand the larger context of our fallible plans for the future of mankind.

Like many artists before me, I have used the sun as a subject for creative expression. Hopefully, these color plates of my mixed-media paintings will be visually intriguing enough to hold your attention for a few moments.

The composite images of my artwork with public domain images of the sun courtesy of NASA are rather novel. Perhaps “something a little different under the sun.” They mold the imaginative with what had once been unimaginable through the brilliance of software technology.

Perhaps these hybrid images will make you pause and rejoice in being aware of your place in the universe. On a more practical level, it has been noted that the sun shines equally on the wise and the foolish.

In an age of accelerating global warming and climate change, this observation is all too true.

As ever,
Bob Barancik





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