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  • richardmitnick 6:08 am on February 15, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , NASA SDO   

    From NASA Goddard: “Stunning Video of the Sun” 

    NASA Goddard Banner

    To mark the fifth anniversary of the Solar Dynamics Observatory, NASA released some amazing footage its collected.

    NASA SDO
    NASA SDO schematic
    SDO

    Watch, enjoy, learn.

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center 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.

    NASA

     
  • richardmitnick 11:16 am on February 7, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , NASA SDO, ,   

    From NYT: “Living With a Star” 

    New York Times

    The New York Times

    FEB. 4, 2015
    Dennis Overbye

    1

    It is a fact rarely appreciated by the general public that to professional astronomers, the Sun is a pretty boring star. Which in fact is great news for the rest of us.

    It doesn’t oscillate or explode, periodically scorching us or freezing us out. In all of recorded history, as far as scientists have been able to tell, the sun’s output has varied by only a tenth of a percent.

    But it is still a star that we live with, and stars can be temperamental — ask any Hollywood agent.

    Our star is an enormous thermonuclear furnace more than a million times as big as Earth. At its center, where the temperature is 15 million degrees, 600 million tons of hydrogen are fused into 596 million tons of helium every second.

    The missing four million tons are transformed into energy. They become sunshine; they are the mortgage payment for life on Earth.

    Even a slight change in this precariously controlled violence can have drastic consequences on Earth. And so astronomers have been keeping careful watch on the sun in recent years as the number of sunspots blotting its surface approached an 11-year peak in 2014, ushering in what is often a season of dangerous storms on the sun.

    Glimpsed in the light of glowing hydrogen, the solar surface seethes and bubbles like boiling oatmeal. Guided by intense magnetic fields, jets of gas rise and fall like rain along arcs that can reach far into the corona, a thin haze of million-degree electrified gas visible during solar eclipses.

    So-called sunspots, which look dark only compared with the brilliance of the disk around them, occur in some regions where intense magnetic fields choke off the rising energy. They wax and wane in concert with the sun’s magnetic field, which reverses its direction every 11 years.

    Every sunspot cycle is slightly different and unpredictable. For the last half of the 17th century and partway into the next, sunspots nearly disappeared from the sun. That period corresponded to a prolonged era of European winters known as the Little Ice Age, and some astronomers have suggested there is a connection between low magnetic and sunspot activity and cooler temperatures on Earth.

    Along with high sunspot numbers comes a greater frequency of storms known as solar flares that can rattle the entire solar system.

    Recent observations with NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory have detailed how magnetic lines of force can snap like overstretched rubber bands, releasing as much energy as 160 billion hydrogen bombs on the sun’s surface.

    NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory
    NASA/SDO

    These explosions can launch monstrous globs of high-energy particles and radiation into space. Radiation from these storms is one of the major health threats that astronauts could face on the long voyage to Mars.

    When such a glob of gas hits our planet, Earth’s magnetosphere cushions the blow. High-energy particles are funneled to the magnetic poles, where they create the dazzling displays known as the Northern or Southern Lights. But they can also wreak electrical havoc, causing blackouts and blinding satellites crucial to modern life and the national defense.

    A solar flare in 1859 produced auroral lights as far south as Hawaii and set telegraphs sparking.

    Sunspots recently peaked again in 2014 and are still dangerously high. So far the planet has escaped any direct hits this time around, but scientists are keeping a weather eye on the good old sun.

    Living with a star is exciting, but it requires eternal vigilance for the inevitable outbursts.

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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  • richardmitnick 9:40 am on October 26, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , NASA SDO,   

    From SPACE.com: ” NASA Spots Creepy Face on the Sun (Photos)” 

    space-dot-com logo

    SPACE.com

    October 14, 2014
    Elizabeth Howell

    Boo! An amazing new photo taken by a NASA spacecraft seems to show the sun with creepy jack-o-lantern grin just in time for Halloween.

    sun
    The sun and its spots shine in 335 angstrom extreme ultraviolet light in this image from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory Oct. 8, 2014.

    NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) snapped the composite photo as the spacecraft stared at the sun from its spot in space on Oct. 8, 2014. In the image, hotspots of magnetic fields on the sun have gathered to form what appears to be two “eyes,” a nose and a super-spooky grin on the sun’s face. There even appear to be ears on the sides of the sun.

    The image is a composite of two taken in extreme ultraviolet light. Active regions on the sun, which include magnetic activity in the sun’s atmosphere (corona), shine brighter and created the jack-o-lantern-like face.

    The sun is at the peak of its 11-year solar cycle, although this one has been a bit more quiet than peaks of the past. The solar peak is associated with huge solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs, bursts of hot plasma sent into the solar system by the sun) that occur as the sun’s magnetic fields twist and snap.

    sun2
    The sun and its spots shine in 335 angstrom extreme ultraviolet light in this image from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory Oct. 8, 2014. Credit: NASA/SDO

    The goal of SDO is to monitor the sun’s activity to provide better “space weather” forecasts for Earth. Charged particles (associated with solar flares and CMEs) emanating from the sun can spark auroras in the Earth’s atmosphere as the particles travel along magnetic fields and excite molecules such as oxygen.

    More severe solar events can cause disruptions in satellites and also in power lines, such as a large storm that knocked out much of the power grid in Quebec, Canada in 1989.

    sun3
    NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory’s view of the sun Oct. 8, 2014 in 193 angstrom extreme ultraviolet light.
    Credit: NASA/SDO

    SDO launched in 2010 and examines how the sun’s magnetic field is created as well as how magnetic energy travels through the solar wind — energetic particles that flow from the sun and through the solar system towards interstellar space.

    NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory
    NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory schematic

    See the full article here.

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  • richardmitnick 7:41 am on April 18, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    From NASA: “Bright Points in Sun’s Atmosphere Mark Patterns Deep In Its Interior” 

    NASA Goddard Banner

    April 17, 2014
    Karen C. Fox
    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

    New research that uses data from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, to track bright points in the solar atmosphere and magnetic signatures on the sun’s surface offers a way to probe the star’s depths faster than ever before. The technique opens the door for near real-time mapping of the sun’s roiling interior – movement that affects a wide range of events on the sun from its 22-year sunspot cycle to its frequent bursts of X-ray light called solar flares.

    sun
    Brightpoints in the sun’s atmosphere, left, correspond to magnetic parcels on the sun’s surface, seen in the processed data on the right. Green spots show smaller parcels, red and yellow much bigger ones. Images based on data from NASA’s SDO captured at 8 p.m. EDT on May 15, 2010. Image Credit: NASA/SDO

    “There are all sorts of things lurking below the surface,” said Scott McIntosh, first author of a paper on these results in the April 1, 2014, issue of The Astrophysical Journal Letters. “And we’ve found a marker for this deep rooted activity. This is kind of a gateway to the interior, and we don’t need months of data to get there.”

    One of the most common ways to probe the sun’s interior is through a technique called helioseismology in which scientists track the time it takes for waves – not unlike seismic waves on Earth — to travel from one side of the sun to the other. From helioseismology solar scientists have some sense of what’s happening inside the sun, which they believe to be made up of granules and super-granules of moving solar material. The material is constantly overturning like boiling water in a pot, but on a much grander scale: A granule is approximately the distance from Los Angeles to New York City; a super-granule is about twice the diameter of Earth.

    sdo
    SDO contains three instruments; Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager (HMI), Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA), and Extreme Ultraviolet Variablity Experiment(EVE) — for observations leading to a more complete understanding of the solar dynamics that drive variability in the Earth’s environment.
    Image Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

    NASA EVE Extreme Ultraviolet Variablity Experiment
    EVE

    NASA Helio Magnetic Imager
    Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager (HMI)

    Instead of tracking seismic waves, the new research probes the solar interior using the Helioseismic Magnetic Imager on NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, which can map the dynamic magnetic fields that thread through and around the sun. Since 2010, McIntosh has tracked the size of different magnetically-balanced areas on the sun, that is, areas where there are an even number of magnetic fields pointing down in toward the sun as pointing out. Think of it like looking down at a city from above with a technology that observed people, but not walls, and recording areas that have an even number of men and women. Even without seeing the buildings, you’d naturally get a sense for the size of rooms, houses, buildings, and whole city blocks – the structures in which people naturally group.

    The team found that the magnetic parcels they mapped corresponded to the size of granules and supergranules, but they also spotted areas much larger than those previously noted — about the diameter of Jupiter. It’s as if when searching for those pairs of men and women, one suddenly realized that the city itself and the sprawling suburbs was another scale worth paying attention to. The scientists believe these areas correlate to even larger cells of flowing material inside the sun.

    The researchers also looked at these regions in SDO imagery of the sun’s atmosphere, the corona, using the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly instrument. They noticed that ubiquitous spots of extreme ultraviolet and X-ray light, known as brightpoints, prefer to hover around the vertices of these large areas, dubbed g-nodes.

    NASA Atmospheric Imaging Assembly Instrument
    Atmospheric Imaging Assembly instrument

    “Imagine a bunch of helium balloons with weights on them,” said Robert Leamon, co-author on the paper at Montana State University in Bozeman and NASA Headquarters in Washington. “The weights get carried along by the motions at the bottom. We can track the motion of the helium balloons floating up high and that tells us what’s happening down below.”

    By opening up a way to peer inside the sun quickly, these techniques could provide a straightforward way to map the sun’s interior and perhaps even improve our ability to forecast changes in magnetic fields that can lead to solar eruptions.

    SDO is the first mission in NASA’s Living with a Star program to explore aspects of the connected sun-Earth system that directly affect life and society. For more information about SDO and its mission, visit:

    http://www.nasa.gov/sdo

    See the full article here.

    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center 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.

    NASA


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