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  • richardmitnick 8:52 am on October 26, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Pathfinding Experiment to Study Origins of Solar Energetic Particles", , , Heliophysics, , , UVSC Pathfinder — short for Ultraviolet Spectro-Coronagraph Pathfinder, UVSC Pathfinder is unique because it’s combined with a spectrometer that measures ultraviolet light., UVSC Pathfinder will peer at the lowest regions of the Sun’s outer atmosphere-or corona-where SEPs are thought to originate.   

    From NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center (US) : “Pathfinding Experiment to Study Origins of Solar Energetic Particles” 

    NASA Goddard Banner

    From NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center (US)

    Oct 25, 2021

    Lina Tran
    lina.tran@nasa.gov
    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

    A joint NASA- Naval Research Laboratory (US) experiment dedicated to studying the origins of solar energetic particles — the Sun’s most dangerous form of radiation — is ready for launch.

    UVSC Pathfinder — short for Ultraviolet Spectro-Coronagraph Pathfinder — will hitch a ride to space aboard STPSat-6, the primary spacecraft of the Space Test Program-3 (STP-3) mission for the Department of Defense.

    UVSC Pathfinder — short for Ultraviolet Spectro-Coronagraph Pathfinder. Credit Leonard Strachan

    STP-3 is scheduled to lift off on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 551 rocket no earlier than Nov. 22, from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.

    Solar energetic particles, or SEPs, are a type of space weather that pose a major challenge to space exploration. A solar particle storm, or SEP event, occurs when the Sun fires energetic particles into space at such high speeds that some reach Earth — 93 million miles away — in less than an hour. Flurries of the powerful particles can wreak havoc with spacecraft and expose astronauts to dangerous radiation.

    UVSC Pathfinder will peer at the lowest regions of the Sun’s outer atmosphere-or corona-where SEPs are thought to originate. While the Sun releases eruptions almost daily when it is most active, there are only about 20 disruptive solar particle storms during any given 11-year solar cycle. Scientists can’t reliably predict which of these will produce SEPs, nor their intensity. Understanding and eventually predicting these solar storms are crucial for enabling future space exploration.

    “It’s a pathfinder because we’re demonstrating new technology and a new way to forecast this type of space weather,” said Leonard Strachan, an astrophysicist at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., and the mission’s principal investigator. “Right now, there’s no real way of predicting when these particle storms will happen.”

    1
    A close up of a solar eruption, including a solar flare, a coronal mass ejection, and a solar energetic particle event. Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

    Solar eruption 2012 by NASA’s Solar Dynamic Observatory SDO

    Understanding and predicting SEPs

    UVSC Pathfinder is a coronagraph, a kind of instrument that blocks the Sun’s bright face to reveal the dimmer, surrounding corona. Most coronagraphs have a single aperture with a series of occulters that block the Sun and reduce stray light. The novelty of UVSC Pathfinder is that it uses five separate apertures, each with its own occulter — significantly boosting the signal from the corona.

    In the corona, scientists expect to find the special group of particles that eventually becomes solar energetic particles. Not just any regular particle in the Sun’s atmosphere can be energized to an SEP. Rather, scientists think SEPs come from swarms of seed particles residing in the corona that are already around 10 times hotter and more energetic than their neighbors. Those could come from bright bursts of energy, called flares, or regions of intense magnetic fields in the corona, called current sheets.

    It takes some prior energetic solar activity to fire up the seed particles. Occasionally, the Sun unleashes massive clouds of solar material, called coronal mass ejections. Those explosions can generate a shock ahead of them, like the wave that crests at the front of a speeding boat. “If a coronal mass ejection comes out fast enough” — 600 miles per second at least — “it can produce a shock, which can sweep up these particles,” Strachan explained. “The particles get so much energy from the shock, they become SEPs.”

    Unlike most coronagraphs that take images in visible light, UVSC Pathfinder is unique because it’s combined with a spectrometer that measures ultraviolet light, a kind of light that’s invisible to human eyes. By analyzing the light in the corona, researchers hope to identify when seed particles are present.

    Scientists have routinely observed SEPs from the near-Earth perspective — 93 million miles away from their origin. Since seed particles are only present in the corona, it has been impossible to measure them directly. UVSC Pathfinder aims to observe the elusive particles by remotely sensing their signatures in ultraviolet light. “We know rather little about them,” said Martin Laming, a U.S. Naval Research Laboratory physicist and UVSC Pathfinder’s science lead. “This is really a ground-breaking observation.”

    The impacts of SEP swarms are serious. When it comes to spacecraft, they can fry electronics, corrupt a satellite’s computer programming, damage solar panels, and even disorient a spacecraft’s star tracker, used for navigation. The effect is like driving through a blizzard and getting lost: SEPs fill the star tracker’s view, and losing its ability to orient itself, it spins off orbit.

    To humans, SEPs are dangerous because they can pass through spacecraft or an astronaut’s skin, where they can damage cells or DNA. This damage can increase risk for cancer later in life, or in extreme cases, cause acute radiation sickness in the short-term. (On Earth, our planet’s protective magnetic field and atmosphere shield humans from this harm.) A series of enormous solar flares in August 1972 — in between the Apollo 16 and 17 missions — serves as a reminder of the threat solar activity and radiation poses.

    The UVSC Pathfinder experiment marks a major step toward understanding where SEPs come from and how they evolve as they travel through the solar system. The data will help scientists predict whether a solar explosion could generate problematic SEPs much the way we predict severe weather events on Earth. Forecasts would enable spacecraft operators and astronauts to take steps to mitigate their impacts. “If our thinking is correct, seed particles will be a really important signature of radiation storms to watch out for,” Laming said.

    2
    Images from NASA’s STEREO satellite show a coronal mass ejection followed by a flurry of solar energetic particles. Credits: NASA/STEREO

    NASA/STEREO spacecraft

    Joining NASA’s heliophysics fleet

    UVSC Pathfinder is the latest addition to NASA’s fleet of heliophysics observatories. NASA heliophysics missions study a vast, interconnected system from the Sun to the space surrounding Earth and other planets, and to the farthest limits of the Sun’s constantly flowing stream of solar wind. UVSC Pathfinder provides key information on SEPs, enabling future space exploration.

    The mission’s observations will complement those of two other solar observatories. The new coronagraph will look as close as 865,000 miles from the Sun, while NASA’s Parker Solar Probe and the European Space Agency and NASA’s Solar Orbiter will directly sample the space up to a distance of 3.8 million miles and 26.7 million miles from the Sun, respectively.

    NASA Parker Solar Probe Plus named to honor Pioneering Physicist Eugene Parker.

    European Space Agency [Agence spatiale européenne][Europäische Weltraumorganisation](EU)/National Aeronautics and Space Administration (US) Solar Orbiter.

    “We hope coordinated observations will be useful in pinning down the evolution of SEPs as they move out from the Sun,” Strachan said.

    “The NASA science program has a long history of obtaining predictive space weather tools from the results of pure research missions,” said Daniel Moses, chief technologist in NASA’s Heliophysics Division. “Collaboration between the NASA Science Mission Directorate, the Naval Research Laboratory and the Department of Defense STP program has been particularly fruitful in this area. UVSC Pathfinder continues this proud tradition of basic research collaboration with the potential of developing a new, high-impact tool with predictive capability.”

    UVSC Pathfinder is a NASA and U.S. Naval Research Laboratory payload aboard the Department of Defense’s Space Test Program Satellite-6 (STPSat-6). It flies alongside NASA’s Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD), which is testing an enhanced communications capability with the potential to increase bandwidth 10 to 100 times more than radio frequency systems — allowing space missions to send more data home.

    UVSC Pathfinder was designed and built at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory. It was funded through NASA’s Heliophysics Program and the Office of Naval Research. It is managed by the Heliophysics Technology and Instrument Development for Science, or H-TIDeS, program office at NASA Headquarters. STP is operated by the United States Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center.

    See the full article here.


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.


    Stem Education Coalition

    NASA Goddard Space Flight Center campus

    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD (US) is home to the nation’s largest organization of combined scientists, engineers and technologists that build spacecraft, instruments and new technology to study the Earth, the sun, our solar system, and the universe.

    Named for American rocketry pioneer Dr. Robert H. Goddard, the center was established in 1959 as NASA’s first space flight complex. Goddard and its several facilities are critical in carrying out NASA’s missions of space exploration and scientific discovery.

    GSFC also operates two spaceflight tracking and data acquisition networks (the NASA Deep Space Network(US) and the Near Earth Network); develops and maintains advanced space and Earth science data information systems, and develops satellite systems for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration(US) .

    GSFC manages operations for many NASA and international missions including the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope; the Explorers Program; the Discovery Program; the Earth Observing System; INTEGRAL; MAVEN; OSIRIS-REx; the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory ; the Solar Dynamics Observatory; Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System ; Fermi; and Swift. Past missions managed by GSFC include the Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer (RXTE), Compton Gamma Ray Observatory, SMM, COBE, IUE, and ROSAT. Typically, unmanned Earth observation missions and observatories in Earth orbit are managed by GSFC, while unmanned planetary missions are managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California(US).

    Goddard is one of four centers built by NASA since its founding on July 29, 1958. It is NASA’s first, and oldest, space center. Its original charter was to perform five major functions on behalf of NASA: technology development and fabrication; planning; scientific research; technical operations; and project management. The center is organized into several directorates, each charged with one of these key functions.

    Until May 1, 1959, NASA’s presence in Greenbelt, MD was known as the Beltsville Space Center. It was then renamed the Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC), after Robert H. Goddard. Its first 157 employees transferred from the United States Navy’s Project Vanguard missile program, but continued their work at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., while the center was under construction.

    Goddard Space Flight Center contributed to Project Mercury, America’s first manned space flight program. The Center assumed a lead role for the project in its early days and managed the first 250 employees involved in the effort, who were stationed at Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. However, the size and scope of Project Mercury soon prompted NASA to build a new Manned Spacecraft Center, now the Johnson Space Center, in Houston, Texas. Project Mercury’s personnel and activities were transferred there in 1961.

    The Goddard network tracked many early manned and unmanned spacecraft.

    Goddard Space Flight Center remained involved in the manned space flight program, providing computer support and radar tracking of flights through a worldwide network of ground stations called the Spacecraft Tracking and Data Acquisition Network (STDN). However, the Center focused primarily on designing unmanned satellites and spacecraft for scientific research missions. Goddard pioneered several fields of spacecraft development, including modular spacecraft design, which reduced costs and made it possible to repair satellites in orbit. Goddard’s Solar Max satellite, launched in 1980, was repaired by astronauts on the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1984. The Hubble Space Telescope, launched in 1990, remains in service and continues to grow in capability thanks to its modular design and multiple servicing missions by the Space Shuttle.

    Today, the center remains involved in each of NASA’s key programs. Goddard has developed more instruments for planetary exploration than any other organization, among them scientific instruments sent to every planet in the Solar System. The center’s contribution to the Earth Science Enterprise includes several spacecraft in the Earth Observing System fleet as well as EOSDIS, a science data collection, processing, and distribution system. For the manned space flight program, Goddard develops tools for use by astronauts during extra-vehicular activity, and operates the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, a spacecraft designed to study the Moon in preparation for future manned exploration.

     
  • richardmitnick 10:13 pm on August 3, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "NASA Model Describes Nearby Star which Resembles Ours in its Youth", At 4.65 billion years old our Sun is a middle-aged star., , Heliophysics, ,   

    From NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (US) : “NASA Model Describes Nearby Star which Resembles Ours in its Youth” 

    NASA Goddard Banner

    From NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (US)

    Aug 3, 2021
    By Alison Gold
    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

    1
    A view of the Sun from the Extreme ultraviolet Imaging Telescope on ESA/NASA’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, or SOHO. Credits: European Space Agency [Agence spatiale européenne][Europäische Weltraumorganisation](EU)/National Aeronautics Space Agency (US).

    New research [The Astrophysical Journal] led by NASA provides a closer look at a nearby star thought to resemble our young Sun. The work allows scientists to better understand what our Sun may have been like when it was young, and how it may have shaped the atmosphere of our planet and the development of life on Earth.

    Many people dream of meeting with a younger version of themselves to exchange advice, identify the origins of their defining traits, and share hopes for the future. At 4.65 billion years old our Sun is a middle-aged star. Scientists are often curious to learn exactly what properties enabled our Sun, in its younger years, to support life on nearby Earth.

    2
    Illustration of what the Sun may have been like 4 billion years ago, around the time life developed on Earth.
    Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Conceptual Image Lab.

    Without a time machine to transport scientists back billions of years, retracing our star’s early activity may seem an impossible feat. Luckily, in the Milky Way galaxy – the glimmering, spiraling segment of the universe where our solar system is located – there are more than 100 billion stars. One in ten share characteristics with our Sun, and many are in the early stages of development.

    “Imagine I want to reproduce a baby picture of an adult when they were one or two years old, and all of their pictures were erased or lost. I would look at a photo of them now, and their close relatives’ photos from around that age, and from there, reconstruct their baby photos,” said Vladimir Airapetian, senior astrophysicist in the Heliophysics Division at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and first author on the new study. “That’s the sort of process we are following here – looking at characteristics of a young star similar to ours, to better understand what our own star was like in its youth, and what allowed it to foster life on one of its nearby planets.”

    Kappa 1 Ceti is one such solar analogue. The star is located about 30 light-years away (in space terms, that’s like a neighbor who lives on the next street over) and is estimated to be between 600 to 750 million years old, around the same age our Sun was when life developed on Earth. It also has a similar mass and surface temperature to our Sun, said the study’s second author, Meng Jin, a heliophysicist with the SETI Institute (US) and the Lockheed Martin Solar and Astrophysics Laboratory in California. All of those factors make Kappa 1 Ceti a “twin” of our young Sun at the time when life arose on Earth, and an important target for study.

    Airapetian, Jin, and several colleagues have adapted an existing solar model to predict some of Kappa 1 Ceti’s most important, yet difficult to measure, characteristics. The model relies on data input from a variety of space missions including the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite and NICER missions, and ESA’s XMM-Newton. The team published their study today in The Astrophysical Journal [above].

    ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    National Aeronautics Space Agency (US)/Massachusetts Institute of Technology (US) TESS

    Star Power

    Like human toddlers, toddler stars are known for their high bursts of energy and activity. For stars, one way this pent-up energy is released is in the form of a stellar wind.

    Stellar winds, like stars themselves, are mostly made up of a superhot gas known as plasma, created when particles in a gas have split into positively charged ions and negatively charged electrons. The most energetic plasma, with the help of a star’s magnetic field, can shoot off away from the outermost and hottest part of a star’s atmosphere, the corona, in an eruption, or stream more steadily toward nearby planets as stellar wind. “Stellar wind is continuously flowing out from a star toward its nearby planets, influencing those planets’ environments,” Jin said.

    Younger stars tend to generate hotter, more vigorous stellar winds and more powerful plasma eruptions than older stars do. Such outbursts can affect the atmosphere and chemistry of planets nearby, and possibly even catalyze the development of organic material – the building blocks for life – on those planets.

    Stellar wind can have a significant impact on planets at any stage of life. But the strong, highly dense stellar winds of young stars can compress the protective magnetic shields of surrounding planets, making them even more susceptible to the effects of the charged particles.

    3
    An artist concept of a coronal mass ejection hitting young Earth’s weak magnetosphere.
    Credits: NASA/GSFC/CIL.

    Our Sun is a perfect example. Compared to now, in its toddlerhood, our Sun likely rotated three times faster, had a stronger magnetic field, and shot out more intense high-energy radiation and particles. These days, for lucky spectators, the impact of these particles is sometimes visible near the planet’s poles as aurora, or the Northern and Southern Lights. Airapetian says 4 billion years ago, considering the impact of our Sun’s wind at that time, these tremendous lights were likely often visible from many more places around the globe.

    That high level of activity in our Sun’s nascence may have pushed back Earth’s protective magnetosphere, and provided the planet – not close enough to be torched like Venus, nor distant enough to be neglected like Mars – with the right atmospheric chemistry for the formation of biological molecules.

    Similar processes could be unfolding in stellar systems across our galaxy and universe.

    “It’s my dream to find a rocky exoplanet in the stage that our planet was in more than 4 billion years ago, being shaped by its young, active star and nearly ready to host life,” Airapetian said. “Understanding what our Sun was like just as life was beginning to develop on Earth will help us to refine our search for stars with exoplanets that may eventually host life.”

    A Solar Twin

    Though solar analogues can help solve one of the challenges of peeking into the Sun’s past, time isn’t the only complicating factor in studying our young Sun. There’s also distance.

    We have instruments capable of accurately measuring the stellar wind from our own Sun, called the solar wind. However, it’s not yet possible to directly observe the stellar wind of other stars in our galaxy, like Kappa 1 Ceti, because they are too far away.

    When scientists wish to study an event or phenomenon that they cannot directly observe, scientific modeling can help fill in the gaps. Models are representations or predictions of an object of study, built on existing scientific data. While scientists have previously modeled the stellar wind from this star, Airapetian said, they used more simplified assumptions.

    The basis for the new model of Kappa 1 Ceti by Airapetian, Jin, and colleagues is the Alfvén Wave Solar Model, which is within the Space Weather Modeling Framework developed by the University of Michigan. The model works by inputting known information about a star, including its magnetic field and ultraviolet emission line data, to predict stellar wind activity. When the model has been tested on our Sun, it has been validated and checked against observed data to verify that its predictions are accurate.

    “It’s capable of modeling our star’s winds and corona with high fidelity,” Jin said. “And it’s a model we can use on other stars, too, to predict their stellar wind and thereby investigate habitability. That’s what we did here.”

    Previous studies have drawn on data gathered by the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) and Hubble Space Telescope (HST) to identify Kappa 1 Ceti as a young solar proxy, and to gather the necessary inputs for the model, such as magnetic field and ultraviolet emission line data.


    The hot stellar corona, the outermost layer in a star’s atmosphere, expands into the stellar wind, driven by heating from the star’s magnetic field and magnetic waves. The researchers modeled the stellar magnetic corona of Kappa 1 Ceti in 3D, based on data from 2012 and 2013. Credit: NASA.

    “Every model needs input to get output,” Airapetian said. “To get useful, accurate output, the input needs to be solid data, ideally from multiple sources across time. We have all that data from Kappa 1 Ceti, but we really synthesized it in this predictive model to move past previous purely observational studies of the star.”

    Airapetian likens his team’s model to a doctor’s report. To get a full picture of how a patient is doing, a doctor is likely to talk to the patient, gather markers like heart rate and temperature, and if needed, conduct several more specialized tests, like a blood test or ultrasound. They are likely to formulate an accurate assessment of patient well-being with a combination of these metrics, not just one.

    Similarly, by using many pieces of information about Kappa 1 Ceti gathered from different space missions, scientists are better able to predict its corona and the stellar wind. Because stellar wind can affect a nearby planet’s magnetic shield, it plays an important role in habitability. The team is also working on another project, looking more closely at the particles that may have emerged from early solar flares, as well as prebiotic chemistry on Earth.

    Our Sun’s Past, Written in the Stars

    The researchers hope to use their model to map the environments of other Sun-like stars at various life stages.

    Specifically, they have eyes on the infant star EK Dra – 111 light-years away and only 100 million years old – which is likely rotating three times faster and shooting off more flares and plasma than Kappa 1 Ceti. Documenting how these similar stars of various ages differ from one another will help characterize the typical trajectory of a star’s life.

    Their work, Airapetian said, is all about “looking at our own Sun, its past and its possible future, through the lens of other stars.”

    To learn more about our Sun’s stormy youth, watch this video and see how energy from our young Sun — 4 billion years ago — aided in creating molecules in Earth’s atmosphere, allowing it to warm up enough to incubate life.


    The Faint Young Star Paradox: Solar Storms May Have Been Key to Life on Earth.
    Our sun’s adolescence was stormy—and new evidence shows that these tempests may have been just the key to seeding life as we know it on Earth. Credit: NASA/Goddard/Genna Duberstein.

    See the full article here.


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.


    Stem Education Coalition


    NASA/Goddard Campus

    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD (US) is home to the nation’s largest organization of combined scientists, engineers and technologists that build spacecraft, instruments and new technology to study the Earth, the sun, our solar system, and the universe.

    Named for American rocketry pioneer Dr. Robert H. Goddard, the center was established in 1959 as NASA’s first space flight complex. Goddard and its several facilities are critical in carrying out NASA’s missions of space exploration and scientific discovery.

    GSFC also operates two spaceflight tracking and data acquisition networks (the NASA Deep Space Network(US) and the Near Earth Network); develops and maintains advanced space and Earth science data information systems, and develops satellite systems for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration(US) .

    GSFC manages operations for many NASA and international missions including the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope; the Explorers Program; the Discovery Program; the Earth Observing System; INTEGRAL; MAVEN; OSIRIS-REx; the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory ; the Solar Dynamics Observatory; Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System ; Fermi; and Swift. Past missions managed by GSFC include the Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer (RXTE), Compton Gamma Ray Observatory, SMM, COBE, IUE, and ROSAT. Typically, unmanned Earth observation missions and observatories in Earth orbit are managed by GSFC, while unmanned planetary missions are managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California(US).

    Goddard is one of four centers built by NASA since its founding on July 29, 1958. It is NASA’s first, and oldest, space center. Its original charter was to perform five major functions on behalf of NASA: technology development and fabrication; planning; scientific research; technical operations; and project management. The center is organized into several directorates, each charged with one of these key functions.

    Until May 1, 1959, NASA’s presence in Greenbelt, MD was known as the Beltsville Space Center. It was then renamed the Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC), after Robert H. Goddard. Its first 157 employees transferred from the United States Navy’s Project Vanguard missile program, but continued their work at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., while the center was under construction.

    Goddard Space Flight Center contributed to Project Mercury, America’s first manned space flight program. The Center assumed a lead role for the project in its early days and managed the first 250 employees involved in the effort, who were stationed at Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. However, the size and scope of Project Mercury soon prompted NASA to build a new Manned Spacecraft Center, now the Johnson Space Center, in Houston, Texas. Project Mercury’s personnel and activities were transferred there in 1961.

    The Goddard network tracked many early manned and unmanned spacecraft.

    Goddard Space Flight Center remained involved in the manned space flight program, providing computer support and radar tracking of flights through a worldwide network of ground stations called the Spacecraft Tracking and Data Acquisition Network (STDN). However, the Center focused primarily on designing unmanned satellites and spacecraft for scientific research missions. Goddard pioneered several fields of spacecraft development, including modular spacecraft design, which reduced costs and made it possible to repair satellites in orbit. Goddard’s Solar Max satellite, launched in 1980, was repaired by astronauts on the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1984. The Hubble Space Telescope, launched in 1990, remains in service and continues to grow in capability thanks to its modular design and multiple servicing missions by the Space Shuttle.

    Today, the center remains involved in each of NASA’s key programs. Goddard has developed more instruments for planetary exploration than any other organization, among them scientific instruments sent to every planet in the Solar System. The center’s contribution to the Earth Science Enterprise includes several spacecraft in the Earth Observing System fleet as well as EOSDIS, a science data collection, processing, and distribution system. For the manned space flight program, Goddard develops tools for use by astronauts during extra-vehicular activity, and operates the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, a spacecraft designed to study the Moon in preparation for future manned exploration.

     
  • richardmitnick 4:46 pm on January 14, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Magnetic 'Highway' Channels Materials out of Cigar Galaxy Messier 82", , , , , Heliophysics, , Starburst galaxy,   

    From Universities Space Research Association: “Magnetic ‘Highway’ Channels Materials out of Cigar Galaxy Messier 82” 

    usra-bloc

    From Universities Space Research Association

    January 14, 2021

    Suraiya Farukhi, Ph.D.
    Director, External Communications
    sfarukhi@usra.edu
    443-812-6945

    What’s fueling the massive ejection of gas and dust out of the Cigar galaxy, otherwise known at Messier 82?

    1
    Magnetic fields in Messier 82, or the Cigar galaxy, are shown as lines over a visible light and infrared composite image of the galaxy from the Hubble Space Telescope and the Spitzer Space Telescope.

    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope.

    NASA/Spitzer Infrared telescope no longer in service. Launched in 2003 and retired on 30 January 2020. Credit: NASA.

    Stellar winds streaming from hot new stars form a galactic super wind that is blasting out plumes of hot gas (red) and a huge halo of smoky dust (yellow/orange) perpendicular to the narrow galaxy (white). Researchers used the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy magnetic field data and tools that have been used extensively to study the physics around the Sun to extrapolate the magnetic field’s strength 20,000 lights-years around the galaxy. They appear to extend indefinitely into intergalactic space, like the Sun’s solar wind, and may help explain how the gas and dust have traveled so far away from the galaxy. Credit: NASA, SOFIA, L. Proudfit; NASA, ESA, Hubble Heritage Team; NASA, JPL-Caltech, C. Engelbracht

    NASA/DLR SOFIA modified Boeing 747 aircraft.

    We know that thousands of stars bursting into existence are driving a powerful super-wind that’s blowing matter into intergalactic space. New research shows that magnetic fields are also contributing to the expulsion of material from Messier 82, a well-known example of a starburst galaxy with a distinctive, elongated shape.

    The findings from NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA, help explain how dust and gas can move from inside galaxies into intergalactic space, offering clues to how galaxies formed. This material is enriched with elements like carbon and oxygen that support life and are the building blocks for future galaxies and stars. The research was presented at the meeting of the American Astronomical Society.

    SOFIA, a joint project of NASA and the German Aerospace Center, DLR, previously studied the direction of magnetic fields close to the core of Messier 82, as the Cigar galaxy is officially known. This time the team applied tools that have been used extensively to study the physics around the Sun, known as heliophysics, to understand the magnetic field’s strength surrounding the galaxy at a distance 10 times larger than before.

    “This is old physics for studying the Sun, but new for galaxies,” said Joan Schmelz, an associate director at the Universities Space Research Association based at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, and co-author of the upcoming paper about this research. “It’s helping us understand how the space between stars and galaxies became so rich with matter for future cosmic generations.”

    Located 12 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Ursa Major, the Cigar galaxy is undergoing an exceptionally high rate of star formation called a starburst. The star formation is so intense that it creates a “super wind” that blows material out of the galaxy. As SOFIA previously found using the instrument called the High-Resolution Airborne Wideband Camera, the wind drags the magnetic field near the galaxy’s core so that it’s perpendicular to the plane of the galaxy across 2,000 light-years.

    NASA/DLR SOFIA High-resolution Airborne Wideband Camera-Plus HAWC+ Camera.

    Researchers wanted to learn if the magnetic field lines would extend indefinitely into intergalactic space like the magnetic environment in the solar wind, or turn over to form structures similar coronal loops that are found in active regions of the Sun. They calculate that the galaxy’s magnetic fields extend out like the solar wind, allowing the material blown by the super wind to escape into intergalactic space.

    These extended magnetic fields may help explain how gas and dust spotted by space telescopes have traveled so far away from the galaxy. NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope detected dusty material 20,000 lightyears beyond the galaxy, but it was unclear why it had spread so far away from the stars in both directions instead of in a cone-shaped jet.

    “The magnetic fields may be acting like a highway, creating lanes for galactic material to spread far and wide into intergalactic space,” said Jordan Guerra Aguilera, a postdoctoral researcher at Villanova University in Pennsylvania and co-author on the upcoming paper.

    With rare exceptions, the magnetic field in the solar corona cannot be measured directly. So, about 50 years ago, scientists developed methods to accurately extrapolate magnetic fields from the Sun’s surface into interplanetary space, known in heliophysics as the potential field extrapolation. Using SOFIA’s existing observations of central magnetic fields, the research team modified this method to estimate the magnetic field 25,000 light-years around the Cigar galaxy.

    “We can’t easily measure the magnetic fields at scales this large, but we can extrapolate it with these tools from heliophysics,” said Enrique Lopez-Rodriguez, a Universities Space Research Association scientist for SOFIA based at Ames and lead author on the study. “This new, interdisciplinary method gives us the larger perspective that we need to understand starburst galaxies.”

    SOFIA is a joint project of NASA and the German Aerospace Center [DLR]. NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley manages the SOFIA program, science, and mission operations in cooperation with the Universities Space Research Association, headquartered in Columbia, Maryland, and the German SOFIA Institute at the University of Stuttgart. The aircraft is maintained and operated by NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center Building 703, in Palmdale, California. The High-Resolution Airborne Wideband Camera instrument was developed and delivered to NASA by a multi-institution team led by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

    See the full article here .

    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition
    USRA is an independent, nonprofit research corporation where the combined efforts of in-house talent and university-based expertise merge to advance space science and technology.

    SIGNIFICANCE & PURPOSE

    USRA was founded in 1969, near the beginning of the Space Age, driven by the vision of two individuals, James Webb (NASA Administrator 1961-1968) and Frederick Seitz (National Academy of Sciences President 1962-1969). They recognized that the technical challenges of space would require an established research base to develop novel concepts and innovative technologies. Together, they worked to create USRA to satisfy not only the ongoing need for innovation in space, but also the need to involve society more broadly so the benefits of space activities would be realized.

     
  • richardmitnick 11:21 am on January 7, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Is a solar flare the same thing as a CME?", , , Heliophysics, ,   

    From NASA via EarthSky: “Is a solar flare the same thing as a CME?” 


    From NASA

    via

    1

    EarthSky

    January 7, 2021

    Solar Cycle 25 is here, and that means – in the years ahead – more solar flares and more coronal mass ejections, or CMEs. People sometimes use the words interchangeably, but they’re not the same thing. Here’s the difference.


    NASA | The Difference Between CMEs and Solar Flares.

    As Solar Cycle 25, which just began, ramps up, we’re going to be hearing more often about solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs). Both are gigantic explosions of energy on the sun. Sometimes solar flares and CMEs happen at the same time; the strongest flares are almost always correlated with CMEs. Both are born when the sun’s magnetic fields explosively realign, driving energy into space. But a solar flare is a brilliant flash of light. A CME is an immense cloud of magnetized particles hurled into space in a particular direction, sometimes toward Earth. As NASA explained:

    “Solar flares and CMEs … emit different things, they look and travel differently, and they have different effects near planets.”

    3
    On August 31, 2012, a long prominence/filament of solar material that had been hovering in the Sun's atmosphere, the corona, erupted out into space at 4:36 p.m. EDT. Seen here from the Solar Dynamics Observatory, the flare caused auroras to be seen on Earth on September 3.

    4
    Coronal Mass Ejection [CME]. Artist’s depiction of an active sun that has released a coronal mass ejection or CME. CMEs are magnetically generated solar phenomenon that can send billions of tons of solar particles, or plasma, into space that can reach Earth one to three days later and affect electronic systems in satellites and on the ground. Credit: NASA.

    As NASA explained:

    “Solar flares and CMEs … emit different things, they look and travel differently, and they have different effects near planets.

    Both eruptions are created when the motion of the sun’s interior contorts its own magnetic fields. Like the sudden release of a twisted rubber band, the magnetic fields explosively realign, driving vast amounts of energy into space. This phenomenon can create a sudden flash of light, a solar flare. Flares can last minutes to hours and they contain tremendous amounts of energy. Traveling at the speed of light, it takes eight minutes for the light from a solar flare to reach Earth. Some of the energy released in the flare also accelerates very high energy particles that can reach Earth in tens of minutes.

    The magnetic contortions can also create a different kind of explosion that hurls solar matter into space. These are the coronal mass ejections, also known as CMEs. One can think of the explosions using the physics of a cannon. The flare is like the muzzle flash, which can be seen anywhere in the vicinity. The CME is like the cannonball, propelled forward in a single, preferential direction, this mass ejected from the barrel only affecting a targeted area. This is the CME, an immense cloud of magnetized particles hurled into space. Traveling over a million miles per hour, the hot material called plasma takes up to three days to reach Earth. The differences between the two types of explosions can be seen through solar telescopes, with flares appearing as a bright light and CMEs appearing as enormous fans of gas swelling into space.”

    While most predictions for Solar Cycle 25 have called for an unusually weak cycle (fewer flares, less activity, than at the peak of other solar cycles), a recent study [Solar Physics] called for an unusually strong cycle (lots of flares and other activity). Time will tell. But the sun is ramping up in activity and starting to form spots.

    Flares and CMEs have different effects at Earth as well, which explains the high interest in them among members of the public. NASA explained:

    “The energy from a flare can disrupt the area of the atmosphere through which radio waves travel. This can lead to degradation and, at worst, temporary blackouts in navigation and communications signals.

    On the other hand, CMEs can funnel particles into near-Earth space. A CME can jostle Earth’s magnetic fields, creating currents that drive particles down toward Earth’s poles. When these react with oxygen and nitrogen, they help create the aurora, also known as the Northern and Southern Lights. Additionally, the magnetic changes can affect a variety of human technologies. High frequency radio waves can be degraded: Radios transmit static, and GPS coordinates stray by a few yards. The magnetic oscillations can also create electrical currents in utility grids on Earth that can overload electrical systems when power companies are not prepared.”

    NASA can point to a robust space-based heliophysics fleet – a fleet of solar, heliospheric, geospace, and planetary spacecraft – that operate simultaneously to understand the dynamics of the solar system and are always on the watch for these explosions. That’ll be important in the coming years as Solar Cycle 25 revs up and creates more activity on the sun: more flares and more CMEs. NASA explained:

    “Much like how we forecast thunderstorms and rain showers, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center runs simulations and can make predictions about when the CME will arrive at Earth based on this and other data. They then alert appropriate groups so that power companies, airlines, and other stakeholders can take precautions in the event of a solar storm. For example, if a strong CME is on its way, utility companies can redirect power loads to protect the grids.”

    See the full article here .

    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation’s civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research.

    President Dwight D. Eisenhower established the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1958 with a distinctly civilian (rather than military) orientation encouraging peaceful applications in space science. The National Aeronautics and Space Act was passed on July 29, 1958, disestablishing NASA’s predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). The new agency became operational on October 1, 1958.

    Since that time, most U.S. space exploration efforts have been led by NASA, including the Apollo moon-landing missions, the Skylab space station, and later the Space Shuttle. Currently, NASA is supporting the International Space Station and is overseeing the development of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle and Commercial Crew vehicles. The agency is also responsible for the Launch Services Program (LSP) which provides oversight of launch operations and countdown management for unmanned NASA launches. Most recently, NASA announced a new Space Launch System that it said would take the agency’s astronauts farther into space than ever before and lay the cornerstone for future human space exploration efforts by the U.S.

    NASA science is focused on better understanding Earth through the Earth Observing System, advancing heliophysics through the efforts of the Science Mission Directorate’s Heliophysics Research Program, exploring bodies throughout the Solar System with advanced robotic missions such as New Horizons, and researching astrophysics topics, such as the Big Bang, through the Great Observatories [Hubble, Chandra,
    Spitzer , and associated programs. NASA shares data with various national and international organizations such as from the [JAXA]Greenhouse Gases Observing Satellite.

     
  • richardmitnick 1:01 pm on June 14, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "NASA's Parker Solar Probe Teams Up With Observatories Around Solar System for 4th Solar Encounter", Heliophysics, Mauna Loa Solar Observatory, , , , Poker Flat Incoherent Scatter Radar, Solar and Terrestrial Relations Observatory [STEREO], Whole Heliosphere and Planetary Interactions   

    From NASA Parker Solar Probe: “NASA’s Parker Solar Probe Teams Up With Observatories Around Solar System for 4th Solar Encounter” 

    NASA image

    NASA Parker Solar Probe Plus named to honor Pioneering Physicist Eugene Parker

    From NASA Parker Solar Probe

    6.12.20

    Sarah Frazier
    sarah.frazier@nasa.gov
    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

    At the heart of understanding our space environment is the knowledge that conditions throughout space — from the Sun to the atmospheres of planets to the radiation environment in deep space — are connected.

    Studying this connection – a field of science called heliophysics — is a complex task: Researchers track sudden eruptions of material, radiation, and particles against the background of the ubiquitous outflow of solar material.

    A confluence of events in early 2020 created a nearly ideal space-based laboratory, combining the alignment of some of humanity’s best observatories — including Parker Solar Probe, during its fourth solar flyby — with a quiet period in the Sun’s activity, when it’s easiest to study those background conditions. These conditions provided a unique opportunity for scientists to study how the Sun influences conditions at points throughout space, with multiple angles of observation and at different distances from the Sun.

    The Sun is an active star whose magnetic field is spread out through the solar system, carried within the Sun’s constant outflow of material called the solar wind, which affects spacecraft and shapes the environments of worlds throughout the solar system. We’ve observed the Sun, space near Earth and other planets, and even the most distant edges of the Sun’s sphere of influence for decades. And 2018 marked the launch of a new, game-changing observatory: Parker Solar Probe, with a plan to ultimately fly to about 3.83 million miles from the Sun’s visible surface.

    Parker has now had four close encounters of the Sun. (The data from Parker’s first encounters with the Sun has already revealed a new picture of its atmosphere.) During its fourth solar encounter, spanning parts of January and February 2020, the spacecraft passed directly between the Sun and Earth. This gave scientists a unique opportunity: The solar wind that Parker Solar Probe measured when it was closest to the Sun would, days later, arrive at Earth, where the wind itself and its effects could be measured by both spacecraft and ground-based observatories. Furthermore, solar observatories on and near Earth would have a clear view of the locations on the Sun that produced the solar wind measured by Parker Solar Probe.

    “We know from Parker data that there are certain structures originating at or near the solar surface. We need to look at the source regions of these structures to fully understand how they form, evolve, and contribute to the plasma dynamics in the solar wind,” said Nour Raouafi, project scientist for the Parker Solar Probe mission at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland. “Ground-based observatories and other space missions provide supporting observations that can help draw the full picture of what Parker is observing.”

    This celestial alignment would be of interest to scientists under any circumstances, but it also coincided with another astronomical period of interest to scientists: solar minimum. This is the point during the Sun’s regular, approximately 11-year cycles of activity when solar activity is at its lowest level — so sudden eruptions on the Sun such as solar flares, coronal mass ejections and energetic particle events are less likely. And that means that studying the Sun near solar minimum is a boon for scientists who can watch a simpler system and thus untangle which events cause which effects.

    “This period provides perfect conditions to trace the solar wind from the Sun to Earth and the planets,” said Giuliana de Toma, a solar scientist at the High Altitude Observatory in Boulder, Colorado, who led coordination among observatories for this observation campaign. “It is a time when we can follow the solar wind more easily, since we don’t have disturbances from the Sun.”

    For decades, scientists have pulled together observations during these periods of solar minimum, an effort co-led by Sarah Gibson, a solar scientist at the High Altitude Observatory, and other scientists. For each of the past three solar minimum periods, scientists pooled observations from an ever-expanding list of observatories in space and on the ground, hoping the wealth of data on the undisturbed solar wind would unveil new information about how it forms and evolves. For this solar minimum period, scientists began gathering coordinated observations starting in early 2019 under the umbrella Whole Heliosphere and Planetary Interactions, or WHPI for short.

    This particular WHPI campaign comprised a broader-than-ever swath of observations: covering not only the Sun and effects on Earth, but also data gathered at Mars and the nature of space throughout the solar system — all in concert with Parker Solar Probe’s fourth and closest-yet flyby of the Sun.

    The WHPI organizers brought together observers from all over the world — and beyond. Combining data from dozens of observatories on Earth and in space gives scientists a chance to paint what might be the most comprehensive picture ever of the solar wind: from images of its birth with solar telescopes, to samples shortly after it leaves the Sun with Parker Solar Probe, to multi-point observations of its changing state throughout space.

    Read on to see samples of the kinds of data captured during this international collaboration of Sun and space observatories.

    Parker Solar Probe

    2
    This animated sequence of visible-light images from Parker Solar Probe’s WISPR instrument shows a coronal streamer, observed when Parker Solar Probe was near perihelion on Jan. 28, 2020.
    Credits: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Naval Research Lab/Parker Solar Probe

    Early data from Parker Solar Probe’s close pass by the Sun during the WHPI campaign shows a solar wind system more dynamic than what’s visible in observations near Earth. In particular, scientists hope the full set of data — downlinked to Earth in May 2020 — will reveal dynamic structures, like tiny coronal mass ejections and magnetic flux ropes in their early stages of development, that can’t be seen with other observatories watching from farther away. Connecting structures like this, previously too small or too distant to see, with solar wind and near-Earth measurements may help scientists better understand how the solar wind changes throughout its lifetime and how its origins near the Sun affect its behavior throughout the solar system.

    Mauna Loa Solar Observatory

    Mauna Loa Solar Observatory

    Parker Solar Probe’s close-up views of solar wind structures are complemented by solar observatories on Earth and in space, which have a larger field of view to capture solar wind structures.

    Data from the Mauna Loa Solar Observatory in Hawaii shows a jet of material being ejected near the Sun’s south pole on Jan. 21, 2020. Coronal jets like this are one solar wind feature that scientists hope to observe more closely with Parker Solar Probe, as the mechanisms that create them could shed more light on the solar wind’s birth and acceleration.

    “It would be extremely fortunate if Parker Solar Probe observed this jet, since it would provide information on plasma and the field in and around the jet not long after its formation,” said Joan Burkepile, lead scientist for the Coronal Solar Magnetism Observatory K-coronagraph instrument at the Mauna Loa Solar Observatory, which captured these images.

    4
    Data from the Mauna Loa Solar Observatory in Hawaii shows a jet of material being ejected near the Sun’s south pole on Jan. 21, 2020 (UTC). This difference image is created by subtracting the pixels of the previous image from the current image to highlight changes. Credits: Mauna Loa Solar Observatory/K-Cor

    Solar and Terrestrial Relations Observatory [STEREO]

    NASA/STEREO spacecraft

    Along with observations of the solar wind from Parker Solar Probe and near Earth, scientists also have detailed images of the Sun and its atmosphere from spacecraft like NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory and the Solar and Terrestrial Relations Observatory. NASA’s Solar and Terrestrial Relations Observatory, or STEREO, has a distinct view of the Sun from its vantage point about 78 degrees away from Earth.

    During this WHPI campaign, scientists took advantage of this unique viewing angle. From Jan. 21-23 — when Parker Solar Probe and STEREO were aligned — the STEREO mission team increased the exposure length and frequency of images taken by its coronagraph, revealing fine structures in the solar wind as they speed out from the Sun.

    These difference images are created by subtracting the pixels of a previous image from the current image to highlight changes — here, revealing a small CME that would otherwise be difficult to see.


    NASA’s Solar and Terrestrial Relations Observatory, or STEREO, took extra images with longer exposure times to improve views of structure in the solar wind. These difference images, spanning Jan. 21-23, 2020, are created by subtracting the pixels of a previous image from the current image to highlight changes. Credits: NASA/STEREO

    Solar Dynamics Observatory


    NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory keeps a constant eye on the Sun. These images, captured in a wavelength of extreme ultraviolet light, span Jan. 15 – Feb. 11, 2020.
    Credits: NASA/SDO

    The Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, takes high-resolution views of the entire Sun, revealing fine details on the solar surface and the lower solar atmosphere. These images were captured in a wavelength of extreme ultraviolet light at 171 Angstroms, highlighting the quiet parts of the Sun’s outer atmosphere, the corona. This data — along with SDO’s images in other wavelengths — maps much of the Sun’s activity, allowing scientists to connect solar wind measurements from Parker Solar Probe and other spacecraft with their possible origins on the Sun.

    NASA SDO

    Modeling the Data

    4
    The Sun’s “open” magnetic field — shown in this model in blue and red, with looped or closed field shown in yellow — primarily comes from near the Sun’s north and south poles during solar minimum, but it spreads out to fill space converging near the Sun’s equator. Credits: NASA/Nick Arge

    Ideally, scientists could use these images to readily pinpoint the region on the Sun that produced a particular stream of solar wind measured by Parker Solar Probe — but identifying the source of any given solar wind stream observed by a spacecraft is not simple. In general, the magnetic field lines that guide the solar wind’s movement flow out of the Northern half of the Sun point in the opposite direction than they do in the Southern half. In early 2020, Parker Solar Probe’s position was right at the boundary between the two – an area known as the heliospheric current sheet.

    “For this perihelion, Parker Solar Probe was very close to the current sheet, so a little nudge one way or the other would make the magnetic footpoint shift to the south or north pole,” said Nick Arge, a solar scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “We were on the tipping point where sometimes it went north, sometimes south.”

    Predicting which side of the tipping point Parker Solar Probe was on was the responsibility of the modeling teams. Using what we know about the Sun’s magnetic field and the clues we can glean from distant images of the Sun, they made day-by-day predictions of where, precisely, on the Sun birthed the solar wind that Parker would fly through on a given day. Several modeling groups made daily attempts to answer just that question.

    Using measurements of the magnetic field at the Sun’s surface, each group made a daily prediction for the source region producing the solar wind that Parker Solar Probe was flying through.

    Arge worked with Shaela Jones, a solar scientist at NASA Goddard who did daily forecasting during the WHPI campaign, using a model originally developed by Arge and colleagues Yi-Ming Wang and Neil Sheeley, called the WSA model. According to their forecasts, the predicted source of the solar wind switched between hemispheres suddenly during the observation campaign, because Earth’s orbit at the time was also closely aligned with the heliospheric current sheet – that region where the direction of magnetic polarity and the source of the solar wind switches between north and south. They predicted that Parker Solar Probe, flying in a similar plane as Earth, would experience similar switches in solar wind source and magnetic polarity as it flew near the Sun.

    6
    This model run — produced by Nick Arge and Shaela Jones using the WSA model — illustrates the predicted origin for solar wind that will impact Earth days later, spanning Jan. 10 – Feb. 3, 2020. The colored regions near the Sun’s north and south poles show the regions from which the solar wind flows out, with red regions showing a faster flow and blue regions showing a slower flow. The yellow lines on the Sun divide areas of opposite magnetic polarity. The white lines indicate the predicted points of origin for the solar wind arriving at Earth at the given date. The black and white underlaid image shows a map of the magnetic field at the Sun’s surface, the basis for the model’s predictions. The black regions are where the magnetic field points inward, toward the Sun, and white regions are where the field points outward, away from the Sun. Credits: NASA/Nick Arge/Shaela Jones

    Solar wind models rely on daily measurements of the Sun’s surface magnetic field — the black and white image underlaid. This particular model used measurements from the National Solar Observatory’s Global Oscillation Network Group and a model that focuses on predicting how the Sun’s surface magnetic field will change over several days. Creating these magnetic surface maps is a complicated and imperfect process unto itself, and some of the modeling groups participating in the WHPI campaign also used magnetic measurements from multiple observatories. This, along with differences in each group’s models, created a spread of predictions that sometimes placed the source of Parker Solar Probe’s solar wind stream in two different hemispheres of the Sun. But given the inherent uncertainty in modeling the solar wind’s source, these different predictions can actually make for more robust operations.

    “If you can observe the Sun in two different places with two telescopes, you have a better chance to get the right spot,” said Jones.

    Poker Flat Incoherent Scatter Radar

    The solar wind carries with it both an enormous amount of energy and the embedded magnetic field of the Sun. When it reaches Earth, it can ring our planet’s natural magnetic field like a bell, making it bend and deform — which produces a measurable change in magnetic field strength at certain points on Earth’s surface. We track those changes because magnetic field oscillations can lead to a host of space weather effects that interfere with spacecraft or even, occasionally, utility grids on the ground.

    A host of ground-based magnetometers have tracked these effects since the 1850s, and they’re one of the many sets of data scientists are gathering in connection with this campaign. Other ground-based instruments can reveal the invisible effects of space weather in our atmosphere. One such system is the Poker Flat Incoherent Scatter Radar, or PFISR — a radar system based at the Poker Flat Research Range near Fairbanks, Alaska.

    8
    The Poker Flat Incoherent Scatter Radar (PFISR) is located at the Poker Flat Research Range near Fairbanks, Alaska. It is a two-dimensional phased array radar consisting of 4096 transmitting and receiving elements. PFISR was built by SRI International on behalf of the National Science Foundation to conduct studies of the upper atmosphere and ionosphere in the auroral zone.

    This radar is specially tuned to detect one of most reliable indicators of a disturbance in Earth’s magnetic field: electrons in Earth’s upper atmosphere. These electrons are created when particles trapped in the magnetosphere are sent zooming into Earth’s atmosphere by a complex series of events, a set of circumstances known as a magnetospheric substorm.

    On Jan. 16, PFISR measured the changing electrons in Earth’s upper atmosphere during one such substorm. During a substorm, particles cascade into the upper atmosphere, not only creating the shower of electrons measured by the radar, but driving a more visible effect: the aurora. PFISR uses multiple beams of radar oriented in different directions, which allowed scientists to build up a three-dimensional picture of how electrons in the atmosphere changed throughout the substorm.


    The Poker Flat Incoherent Scatter Radar in Poker Flat, Alaska, makes 3-D measurements of electrons in Earth’s upper atmosphere. These electrons are produced by the same process that produces aurora, seen here by the Poker Flat All-Sky Camera, which images aurora over Alaska, on Jan. 16, 2020.
    Credits: Poker Flat Incoherent Scatter Radar (NSF)/Poker Flat All-Sky Camera (University of Alaska Fairbanks)/Don Hampton

    Because this substorm took place so early in the observation campaign — only one day after data collection began — it’s unlikely that it was caused by conditions on the Sun observed during the campaign. But even so, the connection between magnetospheric substorms and the broader, global-scale effects created by the solar wind — called geomagnetic storms — isn’t entirely understood.

    “This substorm didn’t happen during a geomagnetic storm time,” said Roger Varney, principal investigator for PFISR at SRI International in Menlo Park, California. “The solar wind during this event is fluctuating, but not particularly strongly — it’s basically background noise. But solar wind is basically never steady; it’s constantly putting some energy into the magnetosphere.”

    This deposit of energy into Earth’s magnetic system has far-reaching effects: for one, changes in the composition and density of Earth’s upper atmosphere can garble communications and navigation signals, an effect often characterized by total electron content. Changes in density can also affect the orbits of satellites to great degree, introducing uncertainty about precise position.

    MAVEN

    NASA Mars MAVEN

    Earth isn’t the only planet where the solar wind has measurable effects — and studying other worlds in our solar system can help scientists understand some of the solar wind’s effects on Earth and how it influenced the evolution of Earth and other worlds throughout the solar system’s history.

    At Mars, the solar wind coupled with Mars’ lack of a global magnetic field may be a major factor in the dry, barren world the Red Planet is today. Though Mars was once much like Earth — warm, with liquid water and a thick atmosphere — the planet has changed drastically over the course of its four-billion-year history, with most of its atmosphere being stripped away to space. With similar processes observed here on Earth, scientists leverage understanding of solar-planetary interactions at Mars to determine how processes leading to atmospheric escape has the ability to change whether a planet is habitable or not. Today, the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution mission, or MAVEN, studies these processes at Mars. MAVEN observations at Mars are available for this latest WHPI campaign.

    ______________________________________________-

    Over the coming months, heliophysicists around the world will begin to study data from these observatories in depth, hoping to draw connections that reveal new knowledge about the Sun and its changes that influence Earth and space across the solar system.

    Parker Solar Probe is part of the NASA Heliophysics Living with a Star program to explore aspects of the Sun-Earth system that directly affect life and society. The Living with a Star program is managed by the agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, designed, built and operates the spacecraft and manages the mission for NASA.

    The research discussed in this story includes work supported by the Poker Flat Incoherent Scatter Radar which is a major facility funded by the National Science Foundation through cooperative agreement AGS-1840962 to SRI International and work at the National Center for Atmospheric Research funded by the National Science Foundation through cooperative agreement AGS-1852977. Support for the WHPI Campaigns is provided through the NASA’s Heliophysics System Observatory Connect (HSO Connect) program.

    See the full article here .

    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Parker Solar Probe is part of NASA’s Living with a Star program to explore aspects of the Sun-Earth system that directly affect life and society. The Living with a Star program is managed by the agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, designed, built and operates the spacecraft.

    For more information about Parker, visit:

    https://www.nasa.gov/parker

    The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation’s civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research.

    President Dwight D. Eisenhower established the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1958 with a distinctly civilian (rather than military) orientation encouraging peaceful applications in space science. The National Aeronautics and Space Act was passed on July 29, 1958, disestablishing NASA’s predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). The new agency became operational on October 1, 1958.

    Since that time, most U.S. space exploration efforts have been led by NASA, including the Apollo moon-landing missions, the Skylab space station, and later the Space Shuttle. Currently, NASA is supporting the International Space Station and is overseeing the development of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle and Commercial Crew vehicles. The agency is also responsible for the Launch Services Program (LSP) which provides oversight of launch operations and countdown management for unmanned NASA launches. Most recently, NASA announced a new Space Launch System that it said would take the agency’s astronauts farther into space than ever before and lay the cornerstone for future human space exploration efforts by the U.S.

    NASA science is focused on better understanding Earth through the Earth Observing System, advancing heliophysics through the efforts of the Science Mission Directorate’s Heliophysics Research Program, exploring bodies throughout the Solar System with advanced robotic missions such as New Horizons, and researching astrophysics topics, such as the Big Bang, through the Great Observatories [Hubble, Chandra, Spitzer, and associated programs. NASA shares data with various national and international organizations such as from the [JAXA]Greenhouse Gases Observing Satellite.

     
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