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  • richardmitnick 3:47 pm on April 5, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "And the Blobs Just Keep on Coming", , NASA's Parker Solar Probe, , Two German-NASA Helios spacecraft which launched in 1974 and 1976 to study the Sun   

    From NASA Goddard Space Flight Center: “And the Blobs Just Keep on Coming” 

    NASA Goddard Banner
    From NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

    April 4, 2019

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

    When Simone Di Matteo first saw the patterns in his data, it seemed too good to be true. “It’s too perfect!” Di Matteo, a space physics Ph.D. student at the University of L’Aquila in Italy, recalled thinking. “It can’t be real.” And it wasn’t, he’d soon find out.

    Di Matteo was looking for long trains of massive blobs — like a lava lamp’s otherworldly bubbles, but anywhere from 50 to 500 times the size of Earth — in the solar wind. The solar wind, whose origins aren’t yet fully understood, is the stream of charged particles that blows constantly from the Sun. Earth’s magnetic field, called the magnetosphere, shields our planet from the brunt of its radiation. But when giant blobs of solar wind collide with the magnetosphere, they can trigger disturbances there that interfere with satellites and everyday communications signals.

    In his search, Di Matteo was re-examining archival data from the two German-NASA Helios spacecraft, which launched in 1974 and 1976 to study the Sun.

    NASA/DLR Helios spacecraft

    1
    Engineers inspect the Helios 2 spacecraft.
    Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

    But this was 45-year-old data he’d never worked with before. The flawless, wave-like patterns he initially found hinted that something was leading him astray.

    It wasn’t until uncovering and removing those false patterns that Di Matteo found exactly what he was looking for: dotted trails of blobs that oozed from the Sun every 90 minutes or so. The scientists published their findings in JGR Space Physics on Feb. 21, 2019. They think the blobs could shed light on the solar wind’s beginnings. Whatever process sends the solar wind out from the Sun must leave signatures on the blobs themselves.

    Making Way for New Science

    Di Matteo’s research was the start of a project NASA scientists undertook in anticipation of the first data from NASA’s Parker Solar Probe mission, which launched in 2018.

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

    Over the next seven years, Parker will fly through unexplored territory, soaring as close as 4 million miles from the Sun. Before Parker, the Helios 2 satellite held the record for the closest approach to the Sun at 27 million miles, and scientists thought it might give them an idea of what to expect. “When a mission like Parker is going to see things no one has seen before, just a hint of what could be observed is really helpful,” Di Matteo said.

    The problem with studying the solar wind from Earth is distance. In the time it takes the solar wind to race across the 93 million miles between us and the Sun, important clues to the wind’s origins — like temperature and density — fade. “You’re constantly asking yourself, ‘How much of what I’m seeing here is because of evolution over four days in transit, and how much came straight from the Sun?’” said solar scientist Nicholeen Viall, who advised Di Matteo during his research at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Helios data — some of which was collected at just one-third the distance between the Sun and Earth — could help them begin to answer these questions.

    Modeling Blobs

    The first step was tracing Helios’ measurements of the blobs to their source on the Sun. “You can look at spacecraft data all you want, but if you can connect it back to where it came from on the Sun, it tells a more complete story,” said Samantha Wallace, one of the study collaborators and a physics Ph.D. student at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque.

    Wallace used an advanced solar wind model to link magnetic maps of the solar surface to Helios’ observations, a tricky task since computer languages and data conventions have changed greatly since Helios’ days. Now, the researchers could see what sorts of regions on the Sun were likely to bud into blobs of solar wind.


    In the days before Parker Solar Probe, the record-breaking spacecraft for speed and closest approach to the Sun were the two Helios probes, launched in the mid-1970s. This visualization shows the orbits of Helios 1 and Helios 2, from an oblique view above the ecliptic plane.
    Credits: Tom Bridgman/NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio

    Sifting the Evidence

    Then, Di Matteo searched the data for specific wave patterns. They expected conditions to alternate — hot and dense, then cold and tenuous — as individual blobs engulfed the spacecraft and moved on, in a long line.

    The picture-perfect patterns Di Matteo first found worried him. “That was a red flag,” Viall said. “The actual solar wind doesn’t have such precise, clean periodicities. Usually when you get such a precise frequency, it means some instrument effect is going on.” Maybe there was some element of the instrument design they weren’t considering, and it was imparting effects that had to be separated from true solar wind patterns.

    Di Matteo needed more information on the Helios instruments. But most researchers who worked on the mission have long since retired. He did what anyone else would do, and turned to the internet.

    Many Google searches and a weekend of online translators later, Di Matteo unearthed a German instruction manual that describes the instruments dedicated to the mission’s solar wind experiment. Decades ago, when Helios was merely a blueprint and before anyone ever launched a spacecraft to the Sun, scientists didn’t know how best to measure the solar wind. To prepare themselves for different scenarios, Di Matteo learned, they equipped the probes with two different instruments that would each measure certain solar wind properties in their own way. This was the culprit responsible for Di Matteo’s perfect waves: the spacecraft itself, as it alternated between two instruments.

    After they removed segments of data taken during routine instrument-switching, the researchers looked again for the blobs. This time, they found them. The team describes five instances that Helios happened to catch trains of blobs. While scientists have spotted these blobs from Earth before, this is the first time they’ve studied them this close to the Sun, and with this level of detail. They outline the first conclusive evidence that the blobs are hotter and denser than the typical solar wind.

    The Return of the Blobs

    Whether blob trains bubble in 90-minute intervals continuously or in spurts, and how much they vary between themselves, is still a mystery. “This is one of those studies that brought up more questions than we answered, but that’s perfect for Parker Solar Probe,” Viall said.

    Parker Solar Probe aims to study the Sun up close, seeking answers to basic questions about the solar wind. “This is going to be very helpful,” said Aleida Higginson, the mission’s deputy project scientist at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland. “If you want to even begin to understand things you’ve never seen before, you need to know what we’ve measured before and have a solid scientific interpretation for it.”

    Parker Solar Probe performs its second solar flyby on April 4, which brings it 15 million miles from the Sun — already cutting Helios 2’s record distance in half. The researchers are eager to see if blobs show up in Parker’s observations. Eventually, the spacecraft will get so close it could catch blobs right after they’ve formed, fresh out of the Sun.

    See the full article here.


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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    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/Goddard Campus

     
  • richardmitnick 10:43 am on February 20, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Solar Tadpole-Like Jets Seen With NASA’S IRIS Add New Clue to Age-Old Mystery", , , , , , , NASA's Parker Solar Probe,   

    From NASA Goddard Space Flight Center: “Solar Tadpole-Like Jets Seen With NASA’S IRIS Add New Clue to Age-Old Mystery” 

    NASA Goddard Banner
    From NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

    Feb. 19, 2019
    Mara Johnson-Groh
    mara.johnson-groh@nasa.gov
    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

    NASA IRIS spacecraft

    Scientists have discovered tadpole-shaped jets coming out of regions with intense magnetic fields on the Sun. Unlike those living on Earth, these “tadpoles” — formally called pseudo-shocks — are made entirely of plasma, the electrically conducting material made of charged particles that account for an estimated 99 percent of the observable universe. The discovery adds a new clue to one of the longest-standing mysteries in astrophysics.

    1
    Anmated images from IRIS show the tadpole-shaped jets containing pseudo-shocks streaking out from the Sun.
    Credits: Abhishek Srivastava IIT (BHU)/Joy Ng, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

    For 150 years scientists have been trying to figure out why the wispy upper atmosphere of the Sun — the corona — is over 200 times hotter than the solar surface. This region, which extends millions of miles, somehow becomes superheated and continually releases highly charged particles, which race across the solar system at supersonic speeds.

    When those particles encounter Earth, they have the potential to harm satellites and astronauts, disrupt telecommunications, and even interfere with power grids during particularly strong events. Understanding how the corona gets so hot can ultimately help us understand the fundamental physics behind what drives these disruptions.

    In recent years, scientists have largely debated two possible explanations for coronal heating: nanoflares and electromagnetic waves. The nanoflare theory proposes bomb-like explosions, which release energy into the solar atmosphere. Siblings to the larger solar flares, they are expected to occur when magnetic field lines explosively reconnect, releasing a surge of hot, charged particles. An alternative theory suggests a type of electromagnetic wave called Alfvén waves might push charged particles into the atmosphere like an ocean wave pushing a surfer. Scientists now think the corona may be heated by a combination of phenomenon like these, instead of a single one alone.

    The new discovery of pseudo-shocks adds another player to that debate. Particularly, it may contribute heat to the corona during specific times, namely when the Sun is active, such as during solar maximums — the most active part of the Sun’s 11-year cycle marked by an increase in sunspots, solar flares and coronal mass ejections.

    The discovery of the solar tadpoles was somewhat fortuitous. When recently analyzing data from NASA’s Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph, or IRIS, scientists noticed unique elongated jets emerging from sunspots ­— cool, magnetically-active regions on the Sun’s surface — and rising 3,000 miles up into the inner corona. The jets, with bulky heads and rarefied tails, looked to the scientists like tadpoles swimming up through the Sun’s layers.

    “We were looking for waves and plasma ejecta, but instead, we noticed these dynamical pseudo-shocks, like disconnected plasma jets, that are not like real shocks but highly energetic to fulfill Sun’s radiative losses,” said Abhishek Srivastava, scientist at the Indian Institute of Technology (BHU) in Varanasi, India, and lead author on the new paper in Nature Astronomy.

    Using computer simulations matching the events, they determined these pseudo-shocks could carry enough energy and plasma to heat the inner corona.

    2
    Animated computer simulation shows how the pseudo-shock is ejected and becomes disconnected from the plasma below (green). Credits: Abhishek Srivastava IIT (BHU)/Joy Ng, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

    The scientists believe the pseudo-shocks are ejected by magnetic reconnection — an explosive tangling of magnetic field lines, which often occurs in and around sunspots. The pseudo-shocks have only been observed around the rims of sunspots so far, but scientists expect they’ll be found in other highly magnetized regions as well.

    3
    The tadpole-shaped pseudo-shocks, shown in dashed white box, are ejected from highly magnetized regions on the solar surface. Credits: Abhishek Srivastava IIT (BHU)/Joy Ng, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

    Over the past five years, IRIS has kept an eye on the Sun in its 10,000-plus orbits around Earth. It’s one of several in NASA’s Sun-staring fleet that have continually observed the Sun over the past two decades. Together, they are working to resolve the debate over coronal heating and solve other mysteries the Sun keeps.

    “From the beginning, the IRIS science investigation has focused on combining high-resolution observations of the solar atmosphere with numerical simulations that capture essential physical processes,” said Bart De Pontieu research scientist at Lockheed Martin Solar & Astrophysics Laboratory in Palo Alto, California. “This paper is a nice illustration of how such a coordinated approach can lead to new physical insights into what drives the dynamics of the solar atmosphere.”

    The newest member in NASA’s heliophysics fleet, Parker Solar Probe, may be able to provide some additional clues to the coronal heating mystery.

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

    Launched in 2018, the spacecraft flies through the solar corona to trace how energy and heat move through the region and to explore what accelerates the solar wind as well as solar energetic particles. Looking at phenomena far above the region where pseudo-shocks are found, Parker Solar Probe’s investigation hopes to shed light on other heating mechanisms, like nanoflares and electromagnetic waves. This work will complement the research conducted with IRIS.

    “This new heating mechanism could be compared to the investigations that Parker Solar Probe will be doing,” said Aleida Higginson, deputy project scientist for Parker Solar Probe at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland. “Together they could provide a comprehensive picture of coronal heating.”

    Related Links:

    Learn more about NASA’s IRIS Mission
    NASA’s Parker Solar Probe and the Curious Case of the Hot Corona
    Learn more about NASA’s Parker Solar Probe

    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’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/Goddard Campus

     
  • richardmitnick 11:44 am on November 1, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , NASA's Parker Solar Probe,   

    From JHU HUB: “The fastest, hottest mission under the sun” Parker Solar Probe 

    Johns Hopkins

    From JHU HUB

    1
    NASA Parker Solar Probe Plus named to honor Pioneering Physicist Eugene Parker.

    The Parker Solar Probe shatters records as it prepares for its first solar encounter.

    10.31.18
    Geoff Brown

    The Parker Solar Probe, designed, built, and operated by the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, now holds two operational records for a spacecraft and will continue to set new records during its seven-year mission to the sun.

    The Parker Solar Probe is now the closest spacecraft to the sun—it passed the current record of 26.55 million miles from the sun’s surface at 1:04 p.m. on Monday, as calculated by the Parker Solar Probe team. As the mission progresses, the spacecraft will make a final close approach of 3.83 million miles from the sun’s surface, expected in 2024.

    Also on Monday, Parker Solar Probe surpassed a speed of 153,454 miles per hour at 10:54 p.m., making it the fastest human-made object relative to the sun. The spacecraft will also accelerate over the course of the mission, achieving a top speed of about 430,000 miles per hour in 2024.

    The previous records for closest solar approach and speed were set by the German-American Helios 2 spacecraft in April 1976.

    “It’s been just 78 days since Parker Solar Probe launched, and we’ve now come closer to our star than any other spacecraft in history,” said project manager Andy Driesman of APL’s Space Exploration Sector. “It’s a proud moment for the team, though we remain focused on our first solar encounter, which begins [today].”

    The Parker Solar Probe team periodically measures the spacecraft’s precise speed and position using NASA’s Deep Space Network, or DSN. The DSN sends a signal to the spacecraft, which then retransmits it back, allowing the team to determine the spacecraft’s speed and position based on the timing and characteristics of the signal. The Parker Solar Probe’s speed and position were calculated using DSN measurements made up to Oct. 24, and the team used that information along with known orbital forces to calculate the spacecraft’s speed and position from that point on.

    NASA Deep Space Network

    NASA Deep Space Network


    NASA Deep Space Network dish, Goldstone, CA, USA


    NASA Canberra, AU, Deep Space Network

    The Parker Solar Probe will begin its first solar encounter today, continuing to fly closer and closer to the sun’s surface until it reaches its first perihelion—the name for the point where it is closest to the sun—at approximately 10:28 p.m. on Nov. 5, at a distance of about 15 million miles from the sun.

    The spacecraft will face brutal heat and radiation while providing unprecedented, close-up observations of a star and helping us understand phenomena that have puzzled scientists for decades. These observations will add key knowledge to our understanding of the sun, where changing conditions can propagate out into the solar system, affecting Earth and other planets.

    See the full article here .


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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    About the Hub

    We’ve been doing some thinking — quite a bit, actually — about all the things that go on at Johns Hopkins. Discovering the glue that holds the universe together, for example. Or unraveling the mysteries of Alzheimer’s disease. Or studying butterflies in flight to fine-tune the construction of aerial surveillance robots. Heady stuff, and a lot of it.

    In fact, Johns Hopkins does so much, in so many places, that it’s hard to wrap your brain around it all. It’s too big, too disparate, too far-flung.

    We created the Hub to be the news center for all this diverse, decentralized activity, a place where you can see what’s new, what’s important, what Johns Hopkins is up to that’s worth sharing. It’s where smart people (like you) can learn about all the smart stuff going on here.

    At the Hub, you might read about cutting-edge cancer research or deep-trench diving vehicles or bionic arms. About the psychology of hoarders or the delicate work of restoring ancient manuscripts or the mad motor-skills brilliance of a guy who can solve a Rubik’s Cube in under eight seconds.

    There’s no telling what you’ll find here because there’s no way of knowing what Johns Hopkins will do next. But when it happens, this is where you’ll find it.

    Johns Hopkins Campus

    The Johns Hopkins University opened in 1876, with the inauguration of its first president, Daniel Coit Gilman. “What are we aiming at?” Gilman asked in his installation address. “The encouragement of research … and the advancement of individual scholars, who by their excellence will advance the sciences they pursue, and the society where they dwell.”

    The mission laid out by Gilman remains the university’s mission today, summed up in a simple but powerful restatement of Gilman’s own words: “Knowledge for the world.”

    What Gilman created was a research university, dedicated to advancing both students’ knowledge and the state of human knowledge through research and scholarship. Gilman believed that teaching and research are interdependent, that success in one depends on success in the other. A modern university, he believed, must do both well. The realization of Gilman’s philosophy at Johns Hopkins, and at other institutions that later attracted Johns Hopkins-trained scholars, revolutionized higher education in America, leading to the research university system as it exists today.

     
  • richardmitnick 8:21 am on August 26, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , NASA's Parker Solar Probe, , One photon emitted during the solar minimum had an energy as high as 467.7 GeV, , , Strange gamma rays from the sun may help decipher its magnetic fields, The high-energy light is more plentiful and weirder than anyone expected   

    From Science News: “Strange gamma rays from the sun may help decipher its magnetic fields” 

    From Science News

    August 24, 2018
    Lisa Grossman

    The high-energy light is more plentiful and weirder than anyone expected.

    1
    A TANGLED SKEIN The sun’s knotted magnetic fields, visualized here as white lines, scramble cosmic rays and may cause them to shoot energetic light called high-energy gamma rays toward Earth. Solar Dynamics Observatory/GSFC/NASA

    NASA/SDO

    The sleepy sun turns out to be a factory of extremely energetic light.

    Scientists have discovered that the sun puts out more of this light, called high-energy gamma rays, overall than predicted. But what’s really weird is that the rays with the highest energies appear when the star is supposed to be at its most sluggish, researchers report in an upcoming study in Physical Review Letters. The research is the first to examine these gamma rays over most of the solar cycle, a roughly 11-year period of waxing and waning solar activity.

    That newfound oddity is probably connected to the activity of the sun’s magnetic fields, the researchers say, and could lead to new insights about the mysterious environment.

    “The almost certain thing that’s going on here is the magnetic fields are much more powerful, much more variable, and much more weirdly shaped than we expect,” says astrophysicist John Beacom of the Ohio State University in Columbus.

    The sun’s high-energy gamma rays aren’t produced directly by the star. Instead, the light is triggered by cosmic rays — protons that zip through space with some of the highest energies known in nature — that smack into solar protons and produce high-energy gamma rays in the process (SN: 10/14/27, p. 7).

    All of those gamma rays would get lost inside the sun, if not for magnetic fields. Magnetic fields are known to take charged particles like cosmic rays and spin them around like a house in a tornado. Theorists have predicted that cosmic rays whose paths have been scrambled by the tangled mass of magnetic fields at the solar surface should send high-energy gamma rays shooting back out of the sun, where astronomers can see them.

    Beacom and colleagues, led by astrophysicist Tim Linden of Ohio State, sifted through data from NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope from August 2008 to November 2017.

    NASA/Fermi LAT


    NASA/Fermi Gamma Ray Space Telescope

    The observations spanned a period of low solar activity in 2008 and 2009, a period of higher activity in 2013 and a decline in activity to the minimum of the next cycle, which started in 2018 (SN: 11/2/13, p. 22). The team tracked the number of solar gamma rays emitted per second, as well as their energies and where on the sun they came from.

    There were more high-energy gamma rays, above 50 billion electron volts, or GeV, than anyone predicted, the team reports. Weirder still, rays with energies above 100 GeV appeared only during the solar minimum, when the sun’s activity level was low. One photon emitted during the solar minimum had an energy as high as 467.7 GeV.

    Strangest of all, the sun seems to emit gamma rays from different parts of its surface at different times in its cycle. Because cosmic rays that hit the sun come in from all directions, you would expect the entire sun to light up in gamma rays uniformly. But Beacom’s team found that during the solar minimum, gamma rays came mainly from near the equator, and during the solar maximum, when the sun’s activity level was high, they clustered near the poles.

    “All of these things are way more weird than anyone had predicted,” Beacom says. “And that means the magnetic fields must be way more weird than anyone had thought.”
    ____________________________________________________
    The missing middle

    These plots show that the sun shot light called high-energy gamma rays from its middle during a period of low solar activity (from about August 2008 to the end of 2009, left), but not during a period of high activity (from 2010 until 2017, right). The gamma rays seem to migrate from the equator to the poles after 2010. Rays with less than 100 billion electron volts, or GeV, of energy are depicted as circles; those with 100 GeV or more are triangles. The bar graphs represent the number of gamma rays that came from different latitudes.

    3
    T. Linden et al/Physical Review Letters 2018
    ____________________________________________________

    Beacom and colleagues tried to connect the excess gamma rays to other solar behaviors that change with magnetic activity, like solar flares or sunspots (SN: 9/30/17, p. 6). “So far nothing has really held up to any sort of scrutiny,” says astrophysicist Annika Peter, also at Ohio State.

    High-energy gamma rays may offer a new way to probe the magnetic fields in the uppermost layer of the solar surface, called the photosphere. “You can’t see [the fields] with a telescope,” Beacom says. “But these [cosmic rays] are journeying there, and the gamma rays they send back are messengers of the terrible conditions there.”

    More observations are coming soon. NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, which launched on August 12, will take the first direct measurements of the magnetic field in the sun’s outer atmosphere, or corona (SN: 7/21/18, p. 12).

    154f8-sol_parkersolarprobe2_nasa


    NASA Parker Solar Probe Plus

    And as the sun enters the next solar minimum, the highest-energy gamma rays are starting to return. In February, Fermi caught its first gamma ray with an energy above 100 GeV since 2009.

    “There really is something strange afoot,” says solar physicist Craig DeForest of the Southwest Research Institute, who is based in Boulder, Colo., and was not involved in the work. “When there’s some new discovery, scientists don’t shout ‘Eureka!’ They go, ‘Hm, that’s funny. That can’t be right.’ This is a classic case of that.”

    See the full article here .


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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

     
  • richardmitnick 2:31 pm on August 11, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , NASA's Parker Solar Probe, , United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket   

    From NASA Spaceflight: “Parker Solar Probe” 

    NASA Spaceflight

    From NASA Spaceflight

    From
    Delta IV-Heavy scrubs first attempt to launch Parker Solar Probe
    written by Chris Gebhardt August 10, 2018

    Parker Solar Probe:

    The Parker Solar Probe began as an idea in the Outer Planet/Solar Probe program of NASA in the 1990s. The original mission concept, the Solar Orbiter, was canceled in 2003 as part of the George W. Bush Administration’s restructuring of NASA to focus more on research and development and address management shortcomings in the wake of the Space Shuttle Columbia accident.

    Six years later, the mission concept was resurrected as a “new mission start” in 2009 with an aim to launch a new solar probe in 2015. By 2012, as the mission moved into its design phase, the launch was pushed to 2018.

    Originally called the Solar Probe Plus, the mission was renamed on 31 May 2017 in honor of Dr. Eugene Parker. In so doing, NASA radically departed from its previous mission naming practices. All prior missions named after people were done so after their deaths in honor of their accomplishments and contributions to science.

    Breaking with this tradition, NASA renamed Solar Probe Plus the Parker Solar Probe after Dr. Parker – making him the first living person to have a NASA spacecraft named after him.

    1
    The mission patch for the Parker Solar Probe flagship science mission to “touch the Sun.” (Credit: NASA)

    A pioneering astrophysicist, Dr. Parker is best known for developing the theory of supersonic solar wind and correctly predicting the shape of the Heliospheric current sheet (or Parker spiral shape) of the solar magnetic field in the outer solar system. Furthermore, in 1987, Dr. Parker proposed that the solar corona was heated by a myriad of tiny nanoflares – solar flare-like brightenings that occur across the entirety of the Sun’s surface.

    Unlike other solar telescopes and missions, the Parker Solar Probe will venture where no probe has gone before – into the Sun’s corona. Mission planning calls for the probe to approach the Sun to within 6 million km (3.7 million miles) or just 0.04 AU – 8.5 solar radii.

    During its mission, Parker Solar will seek to answer three very important questions about the Sun:

    Why and how is the solar wind accelerated to supersonic speeds inside the corona?
    What is the mechanism that heats and accelerates particles in the corona?
    What is accelerating some particles, very few, to near the speed of light (creating highly energetic particles)?

    Answering that third question holds potentially great significance for our lives here on Earth and our quest to move beyond Earth and out into the solar system because these highly energetic particles are highly charged and can penetrate walls of spacecraft and be harmful for astronauts – like giving them a constant x-ray.

    These highly energetic particles can also wreak havoc with our electronics on Earth, in orbit, and in space. Therefore, part of Parker Solar’s mission is to help us better understand how the particles are accelerated/created in the corona – which in turn will help us better predict their occurrence and create improved plans for how to protect our technology and astronauts.

    Special heat shield and cooling system:

    Diving that close to the Sun, Parker Solar Probe will, according to NASA, “explore what is arguably the last and most important region of the solar system to be visited by a spacecraft and will finally answer top-priority science goals of the last five decades.”

    written by Chris Gebhardt August 10, 2018

    A mission nearly 60 years in the making is ready to launch on a historic flight to become the first spacecraft to “touch the surface of the Sun”. NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, named after Dr. Eugene Parker, will unlock many of the mysteries still held by our solar system’s star. The probe was set to launch atop at on Saturday but suffered from a scrub just minutes from launch due to an issue with a helium regulator. Another attempt will take place on Sunday, with the window opening at 03:31 Eastern.

    Parker Solar Probe:

    The Parker Solar Probe began as an idea in the Outer Planet/Solar Probe program of NASA in the 1990s. The original mission concept, the Solar Orbiter, was canceled in 2003 as part of the George W. Bush Administration’s restructuring of NASA to focus more on research and development and address management shortcomings in the wake of the Space Shuttle Columbia accident.

    Six years later, the mission concept was resurrected as a “new mission start” in 2009 with an aim to launch a new solar probe in 2015. By 2012, as the mission moved into its design phase, the launch was pushed to 2018.

    Originally called the Solar Probe Plus, the mission was renamed on 31 May 2017 in honor of Dr. Eugene Parker. In so doing, NASA radically departed from its previous mission naming practices. All prior missions named after people were done so after their deaths in honor of their accomplishments and contributions to science.

    Breaking with this tradition, NASA renamed Solar Probe Plus the Parker Solar Probe after Dr. Parker – making him the first living person to have a NASA spacecraft named after him.

    The mission patch for the Parker Solar Probe flagship science mission to “touch the Sun.” (Credit: NASA)

    A pioneering astrophysicist, Dr. Parker is best known for developing the theory of supersonic solar wind and correctly predicting the shape of the Heliospheric current sheet (or Parker spiral shape) of the solar magnetic field in the outer solar system. Furthermore, in 1987, Dr. Parker proposed that the solar corona was heated by a myriad of tiny nanoflares – solar flare-like brightenings that occur across the entirety of the Sun’s surface.

    Unlike other solar telescopes and missions, the Parker Solar Probe will venture where no probe has gone before – into the Sun’s corona. Mission planning calls for the probe to approach the Sun to within 6 million km (3.7 million miles) or just 0.04 AU – 8.5 solar radii.

    During its mission, Parker Solar will seek to answer three very important questions about the Sun:

    Why and how is the solar wind accelerated to supersonic speeds inside the corona?
    What is the mechanism that heats and accelerates particles in the corona?
    What is accelerating some particles, very few, to near the speed of light (creating highly energetic particles)?

    Answering that third question holds potentially great significance for our lives here on Earth and our quest to move beyond Earth and out into the solar system because these highly energetic particles are highly charged and can penetrate walls of spacecraft and be harmful for astronauts – like giving them a constant x-ray.

    These highly energetic particles can also wreak havoc with our electronics on Earth, in orbit, and in space. Therefore, part of Parker Solar’s mission is to help us better understand how the particles are accelerated/created in the corona – which in turn will help us better predict their occurrence and create improved plans for how to protect our technology and astronauts.

    Special heat shield and cooling system:

    Diving that close to the Sun, Parker Solar Probe will, according to NASA, “explore what is arguably the last and most important region of the solar system to be visited by a spacecraft and will finally answer top-priority science goals of the last five decades.”

    In order to survive the intense environment of the outer corona, an area in which the probe will experience solar intensity 520 times greater than Earth does, a specialized heat shield and cooling system were designed to protect the spacecraft and scientific instruments.

    The heat shield (or solar shadow-shield), which was installed for integrated vehicle testing in September 2017 at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab (APL), is made of reinforced carbon-carbon composite.

    Reinforced carbon-carbon is most widely and infamously known for its use on the Space Shuttle, as the nose cap and Wing Leading Edge elements of the Thermal Protection System on the five Orbiters – though it was initially developed for the nose cones of intercontinental ballistic missiles and is currently used in the brake systems for Formula One racing cars.

    For Parker Solar Probe, reinforced carbon-carbon will serve as the solar shadow-shield, which will block direct radiation from the Sun for the probe’s instrumentation and experiment packages and will keep temperatures behind the shield at a comfortable 85°F (29.4℃) while temperatures on the Sun-facing side of the shield will soar to 2,500°F (1,377℃) during closest approaches.

    Moreover, the mission’s proximity to the Sun also necessitated the development and use of a revolutionary cooling system to ensure the probe’s solar arrays continue to operate at peak efficiency in the extremely hostile conditions of the corona.

    2
    An artist’s depiction of the Parker Solar Probe as it dives toward the Sun for one of its close flybys into the corona. (Credit: NASA/APL)

    The arrays are designed with an upward bend at their outer edges. These edges will stick out beyond the solar shadow-shield during coronal passes to provide Parker Solar Probe with enough power for the spacecraft’s systems.

    “Our solar arrays are going to operate in an extreme environment that other missions have never operated in before,” said Mary Kae Lockwood, spacecraft system engineer for Parker Solar Probe at APL.

    While the surface of the solar shadow-shield will reach temperatures in excess of 2,500°F, the specially designed cooling system for the solar arrays will keep the arrays at a temperature of just 320°F or below.

    This will be the first-of-its-kind actively cooled solar array system and was developed by APL in partnership with United Technologies Aerospace Systems (which manufactured the cooling system) and SolAero Technologies (which produced the solar arrays).

    The cooling system itself is composed of a heated accumulator tank that will hold water (the coolant) during launch, two-speed pumps, and four radiators made of titanium tubes and aluminum fins just two hundredths of an inch thick.

    3
    Parker Solar Probe undergoing pre-flight checkouts. (Credit: NASA/APL)

    Water was chosen as the coolant because of the temperature range the system will encounter throughout the mission. “For the temperature range we required, and for the mass constraints, water was the solution,” said Lockwood.

    During and immediately after launch, the solar arrays and cooling system radiators will undergo wide temperature swings from 60°F (15°C) inside the payload fairing to -85°F through -220°F (-65°C to -140°C) once exposed to space before they can be warmed by the Sun. A pre-heated coolant tank will keep the coolant water from freezing.

    “One of the biggest challenges in testing this is those transitions from very cold to very hot in a short period of time,” Lockwood said. “But those tests, and other tests to show how the system works when under a fully-heated TPS, correlated quite well to our models.”

    Moreover, this testing and modeling showed the team that they needed to increase the thermal blanketing on the first two radiators that will be activated after launch in order to balance maximizing their capacity at the end of the mission with reducing the risk of the water freezing early in the mission.

    Getting Parker Solar Probe to the Sun – Calling the Delta IV Heavy:

    One might think that getting to the Sun is easier than getting to the outer planets and the farthest reaches of our solar system. But each actually include unique challenges that are put on full display with Parker Solar Probe.

    The challenge of getting to the Sun is the reverse of getting to the outer planets. When trying to reach the outer planets and reaches of the solar system, you seek to increase your velocity as you move through the solar system via gravitational assists – mainly from Jupiter.

    But Parker Solar Probe seeks to do the exact opposite, slowing itself down and giving energy (speed) to the inner planets – in this case, Venus – as it performs numerous flybys of the second rock from the Sun.

    So the questions then arise: if Parker Solar Probe needs to “go slow” to reach the Sun, why launch it at such a high velocity? And why is a high velocity bad for Parker Solar Probe when it’s going to become the fastest human-made object ever.

    The answer to the first question is the same as with all things space exploration: physics. A specific amount of energy (speed) is needed to escape Earth’s gravitational force. And that’s what the main part of the Delta IV Heavy has to do.

    But the Probe also has to overcome the speed at which Earth is moving around the Sun in its Orbit.

    3
    The Delta IV Heavy (Delta 9250H) is an expendable heavy-lift launch vehicle, the largest type of the Delta IV family and the world’s second highest-capacity rocket in operation, with a payload capacity half of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket. It is manufactured by United Launch Alliance and was first launched in 2004.

    Here, the specific mission parameters that call for Parker Solar Probe to make 24 close flybys of the Sun require a very specific trajectory and orbit. So to get to that orbit when Earth is moving around the Sun (and taking Parker with it), Parker Solar Probe actually has to start slowing down (relative to the Sun) during the powered phase of launch.

    This sounds contradictory to what we generally think of for launches, but part of the job of the third stage, in this case, is to start that slowing down process.

    During launch, the third stage’s velocity will increase because the speed relative to Earth is increasing. But, in fact, the velocity relative to the Sun is slowing down. This slow down will allow the Sun’s gravity to begin pulling Parker Solar inward toward Venus.

    Parker Solar Probe will then execute seven gravitational assist flybys of Venus so that it can perform progressively closer and closer flybys of the Sun’s surface. These progressively closer orbits are achieved by the probe’s interactions with Venus, which slow Parker Solar down (the slower you go, the closer you get to the Sun’s surface due to the Sun’s gravitational forces) and gives some of its energy to Venus in the process.

    The answer to the second question, why is such a high launch velocity bad for Parker Solar Probe’s operational mission, has to do with the parameters of the mission. Parker Solar is designed to perform multiple, close flybys of the Sun. If the probe were not to encounter Venus and fly directly toward the Sun at its full launch velocity, it would continuously gain speed as it approached the Sun and be flung off into a highly elliptical orbit that would not permit it to perform its 24 flybys within the spacecraft’s available lifetime.

    3
    Parker Solar Probe’s trajectory over the course of its planned 7-year mission. (NASA/APL)

    In short, it’s complicated. We have to launch Parker Solar at a high enough velocity to escape Earth’s gravitational field while simultaneously slowing the probe down so it doesn’t get flung out into an orbit that takes too long to complete for its scientific objectives – an event that would violate the mission’s entire purpose.

    So to do this, Parker Solar, while quite small and lightweight (weighing in at only 1,510 lbs, or 685 kg), needs a heavy-hitter launch vehicle. Enter the United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy.

    The mighty and majestic beast of the United Launch Alliance rocket family, the Delta IV Heavy will be tasked with sending Parker Solar on its merry way to the Sun. This will be the 10th flight of Delta IV Heavy as well as this rocket variant’s first mission to deliver an extremely important scientific payload to space.

    It will also be the lightest-weight known payload lifted to space by Delta IV Heavy. Of the non-classified Delta IV Heavy missions to date, the lightest-weight payload was Defense Support Program (DSP) -23 at 5,200kg.

    Assembly of this Delta IV Heavy rocket began in July and August 2017 with the arrival of the three Common Booster Cores that form the first stage of the Delta IV Heavy configuration. The Delta IV cores were all assembled in Decatur, Alabama, just west of Huntsville.

    After mating the three Common Booster Cores together, technicians inside the Horizontal Integration Facility at SLC-37B mated the Delta Cryogenic Second Stage (a modified version of which will serve as the SLS Block 1 rocket’s second stage) to the top of the three boosters in March 2018.

    Immediately thereafter, the Parker Solar Probe itself arrived in Titusville, Florida, at the Astrotech processing center on 3 April – where its final sequence of processing activities and checkouts for launch began.

    For the rocket, after a month of integrated checkouts in the integration facility, United Launch Alliance engineers rolled the assembled Delta IV Heavy the short way from its hanger to the launch mounts at SLC-37B on 16 April and erected the rocket on the pad the following day.

    A series of three Wet Dress Rehearsals were undertaken by the United Launch Alliance team for this particular Delta IV Heavy rocket in an attempt to ferret out any ground and vehicle issues that required attention and fixing prior to the scheduled launch.

    The number of Wet Dress Rehearsals (WDR) conducted for this mission was unusual – with two scheduled ahead of time and planned for because this is the first Delta IV rocket East Coast flight with the new common avionics suite.

    However, the first WDR was scrubbed due to lightning and the second resulted in issues that only permitted fueling of the three Common Booster Cores and not the second stage, so a third WDR was then scheduled.

    The third WDR was completed successfully, and a Mission Dress Rehearsal earlier this week and a final Flight Readiness Review all cleared the rocket and payload for launch.

    Parker Solar Probe and the Delta IV Heavy are slated to launch within a 65-minute launch window.

    After liftoff, Delta IV Heavy will pitch downrange and head due east over the Atlantic Ocean. Shortly after liftoff, the center core of the three Common Booster Cores (CBCs) of the first stage will throttle back to conserve propellant as the two side CBCs provide the brunt of the force lifting the rocket out of the dense lower atmosphere.

    At T+3 minutes 56 seconds into the flight, the two side cores will separate, and the center core will power back up to full thrust, burning until T+5 minutes 36 seconds – after which the center core will separate.

    The Delta Cryogenic Second Stage (DCSS) will then ignite for the first of its two burns. The first of these burns will end at T+10 minutes 37 seconds – at which point Parker Solar will be in its initial parking orbit.

    The DCSS will reignite for a second burn at T+22 minutes 25 seconds. This burn will last for about 14 minutes.

    5
    The Star 48 third stage fires to send the Parker Solar Probe into its correct orbit toward Venus. (Credit: NASA)

    After the second DCSS engine cutoff, the 2nd and 3rd stages will separate – with the Northrop Grumman-built third stage, the STAR 48BV. This is a solid propellant stage that will produce 17,490 lbs of thrust for just 84 seconds. But in that 84 seconds, the third stage will impart two-thirds of the total velocity of the launch phase.

    (Of note, this is not the only part of the Delta IV Heavy built by Northrop Grumman. The first stage engine nozzles, pressurization tanks, payload fairing, and most of the white areas on the rocket are all built by Northrop Grumman.)

    Once that small duration burn is complete, Parker Solar Probe will separate from the third stage and be on its inward dive toward Venus.

    Assuming launch on 11 August, Parker Solar will encounter Venus for the first of seven flybys on 2 October 2018. It will then perform its first close flyby of the Sun – perihelion – on 5 November 2018.

    Overall, Parker Solar Probe has a launch window that extends to 23 August 2018 due to the need to intercept Venus. If, for some reason, the mission has not launched by then, launch will have to wait until May 2019 for the next Earth-Venus alignment.

    See the full article here .

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    NASASpaceFlight.com, now in its eighth year of operations, is already the leading online news resource for everyone interested in space flight specific news, supplying our readership with the latest news, around the clock, with editors covering all the leading space faring nations.

    Breaking more exclusive space flight related news stories than any other site in its field, NASASpaceFlight.com is dedicated to expanding the public’s awareness and respect for the space flight industry, which in turn is reflected in the many thousands of space industry visitors to the site, ranging from NASA to Lockheed Martin, Boeing, United Space Alliance and commercial space flight arena.

    With a monthly readership of 500,000 visitors and growing, the site’s expansion has already seen articles being referenced and linked by major news networks such as MSNBC, CBS, The New York Times, Popular Science, but to name a few.

     
  • richardmitnick 10:03 am on August 7, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , NASA's Parker Solar Probe,   

    From JHU HUB: “Can the Parker Solar Probe take the heat?” 

    Johns Hopkins

    From JHU HUB

    8.6.18
    By Tracy Vogel

    1
    NASA JHUAPL Parker Solar Probe approaches the sun.

    Researchers at the Applied Physics Lab develop a shield strong enough to protect the spacecraft’s sensitive instruments during its mission to “touch” the sun.

    The star of the show is a dark gray block, about the size of a textbook, and several inches thick. As an audience of reporters watches, an engineer runs a flaming blowtorch over the block until its face heats to a red glow.

    “You want to take a touch of the back surface?” she invites a NASA T-shirt-clad volunteer.

    The volunteer reaches tentatively out to the back, first with one finger, and then with her whole hand.

    “How does it feel?”

    “Lukewarm,” the volunteer responds. “Not even—normal.”


    Video: NASA Goddard

    The demonstration, dubbed “Blowtorch vs. Heat Shield” on YouTube, represents the culmination of years of research, trial and error, and painstaking analysis by engineers at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory to solve what they call the “thermal problem” of the Parker Solar Probe, a spacecraft that will travel within 4 million miles of the surface of the sun.

    The “thermal problem” is a gentle way of referring to the complications of performing this record-breaking dive directly into our star’s outer atmosphere, or corona. While the Parker Solar Probe orbits the star and records data with its onboard instruments, a thermal protection system, or TPS, will shield the spacecraft from the heat. Combined with a water-powered cooling system, the TPS will keep the majority of the spacecraft’s instruments at about 85 degrees Fahrenheit—a nice summer day—while the TPS itself endures a temperature of 2500 degrees Fahrenheit.

    Without the TPS, there’s no probe.

    “This was the technology that enabled us to do this mission—to enable it to fly,” says Elisabeth Abel, TPS thermal lead. “It’s going to be incredibly exciting to see something you put a lot of energy and hard work into, to see it actually fly. It’s going to be a big day.”

    The “thermal problem” is a gentle way of referring to the complications of performing this record-breaking dive directly into our star’s outer atmosphere, or corona. While the Parker Solar Probe orbits the star and records data with its onboard instruments, a thermal protection system, or TPS, will shield the spacecraft from the heat. Combined with a water-powered cooling system, the TPS will keep the majority of the spacecraft’s instruments at about 85 degrees Fahrenheit—a nice summer day—while the TPS itself endures a temperature of 2500 degrees Fahrenheit.

    The Parker Solar Probe is expected to launch from Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, this month—its launch window opens Saturday and runs through Aug. 23. During its seven-year mission, it’ll explore some of the sun’s greatest mysteries: Why is the solar wind a breeze closer to the sun but supersonic torrent farther away? Why is the corona itself millions of degrees hotter than the surface of the sun? What are the mechanisms behind the astoundingly fast-moving solar energetic particles that can interfere with spacecraft, disrupt communications on Earth, and endanger astronauts?

    The launch will conclude 60 years of planning and effort, and more than a decade spent creating the heat shield that deflects the worst of the sun’s energy.

    The front and back faces of the heat shield are made of sheets of carbon-carbon, a lightweight material with superior mechanical properties especially suited for high temperatures. At less than a tenth of an inch thick, the two carbon-carbon sheets are thin enough to bend, even if they were laid on top of each other. Between them is about 4.5 inches of carbon foam, typically used in the medical industry for bone replacement. This sandwich design stiffens everything up—like corrugated cardboard—while allowing the 8-foot heat shield to weigh in at only about 160 pounds.

    The foam also performs the heat shield’s most essential structural functions. Carbon itself conducts heat, but carbon foam is 97 percent air. In addition to cutting the weight of the spacecraft to help it get into orbit, the foam structure means there’s just not that much material for heat to travel through. The heat shield will be 2500 degrees Fahrenheit on the side facing the sun, but only 600 degrees Fahrenheit at the back.

    The foam wasn’t easy to test. It’s extremely fragile, and there was another problem.

    “When you get it hot, it can combust,” Abel says.

    Combustion isn’t an issue in a vacuum (like in space), but leftover air in test chambers would cause the foam to char. So the engineers built their own vacuum chamber at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, where a high-temperature plasma-arc lamp facility could heat the material to the incredible temperatures the heat shield would endure.

    3
    Image credit: Greg Stanley / Office of Communications

    But all of the carbon foam’s impressive heat-dispersing properties weren’t enough to keep the spacecraft at its required temperature. Because there’s no air in space to provide cooling, the only way for material to expel heat is to scatter light and eject heat in the form of photons. For that, another layer of protection was necessary: a white coating that would reflect heat and light.

    For that, APL turned to the Advanced Technology Laboratory in Johns Hopkins University’s Whiting School of Engineering, where a fortunate coincidence had led to the assembly of a heat shield–coating dream team: experts in high-temperature ceramics, chemistry, and plasma spray coatings.

    After extensive engineering and testing, the team settled on a coating based on bright white aluminum oxide. But that coating could react with the carbon of the heat shield in high temperatures and turn gray, so the engineers added a layer of tungsten, thinner than a strand of hair, between the heat shield and the coating to stop the two from interacting. They added nanoscale dopants to make the coating whiter and to inhibit the expansion of aluminum oxide grains when exposed to heat.

    Then the engineers had to determine how best to create and apply the coating.

    “The whole thing was struggling to find a ceramic coating that both reflects light and emits the heat,” says Dennis Nagle, principal research engineer at the Center for Systems Science and Engineering.

    Typically when working with enamel, Nagle says, a hard, nonporous coating is preferred—one that’ll crack when hit with a hammer. But under the temperatures faced by the Parker Solar Probe, a smooth coating would shatter like a window hit with a rock. Instead the goal was a uniformly porous coating that would withstand extreme environments. When cracks start in a porous coating, they’ll stop when they hit a pore. The coating was made of several rough, grainy layers—enough that one set of ceramic grains would reflect light that another layer misses.

    “I always tell people it works because it’s a lousy coating,” jokes Nagle. “If you want to make a good coating, it’ll fail.”

    After the Parker Solar Probe launches, it will spin repeatedly around Venus in a gradually narrowing orbit that will take it closer and closer to the sun. Scientists are eagerly awaiting the flood of new data from the probe’s instruments, but those who helped make the heat shield a reality say the thrill will be in seeing that final dip into the sun’s atmosphere, seven times closer than any previous spacecraft, the car-sized probe and its precious cargo defended from the sun’s might by their work.

    But seven years is a long time to wait for a final test of success, so the launch will have to do for now.

    “This was highly challenging,” says Dajie Zhang, a senior staff scientist in APL’s Research and Exploratory Development Department who worked on the TPS coating. “It makes me feel much better coming into work every day. The solar probe’s success showed me I can do it, and our team can do it.”

    See the full article here .


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    About the Hub

    We’ve been doing some thinking — quite a bit, actually — about all the things that go on at Johns Hopkins. Discovering the glue that holds the universe together, for example. Or unraveling the mysteries of Alzheimer’s disease. Or studying butterflies in flight to fine-tune the construction of aerial surveillance robots. Heady stuff, and a lot of it.

    In fact, Johns Hopkins does so much, in so many places, that it’s hard to wrap your brain around it all. It’s too big, too disparate, too far-flung.

    We created the Hub to be the news center for all this diverse, decentralized activity, a place where you can see what’s new, what’s important, what Johns Hopkins is up to that’s worth sharing. It’s where smart people (like you) can learn about all the smart stuff going on here.

    At the Hub, you might read about cutting-edge cancer research or deep-trench diving vehicles or bionic arms. About the psychology of hoarders or the delicate work of restoring ancient manuscripts or the mad motor-skills brilliance of a guy who can solve a Rubik’s Cube in under eight seconds.

    There’s no telling what you’ll find here because there’s no way of knowing what Johns Hopkins will do next. But when it happens, this is where you’ll find it.

    Johns Hopkins Campus

    The Johns Hopkins University opened in 1876, with the inauguration of its first president, Daniel Coit Gilman. “What are we aiming at?” Gilman asked in his installation address. “The encouragement of research … and the advancement of individual scholars, who by their excellence will advance the sciences they pursue, and the society where they dwell.”

    The mission laid out by Gilman remains the university’s mission today, summed up in a simple but powerful restatement of Gilman’s own words: “Knowledge for the world.”

    What Gilman created was a research university, dedicated to advancing both students’ knowledge and the state of human knowledge through research and scholarship. Gilman believed that teaching and research are interdependent, that success in one depends on success in the other. A modern university, he believed, must do both well. The realization of Gilman’s philosophy at Johns Hopkins, and at other institutions that later attracted Johns Hopkins-trained scholars, revolutionized higher education in America, leading to the research university system as it exists today.

     
  • richardmitnick 9:46 am on July 19, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , NASA's Parker Solar Probe, Occulting disc, , , ,   

    From Southwest Research Institute via Science Alert: “Never-Before-Seen Structures Have Been Detected in Our Sun’s Corona” 

    SwRI bloc

    From Southwest Research Institute

    via

    ScienceAlert

    Science Alert

    19 JUL 2018
    MICHELLE STARR

    1
    DeForest et al./The Astrophysical Journal

    Using longer exposures and sophisticated processing techniques, scientists have taken extraordinarily high-fidelity pictures of the Sun’s outer atmosphere – what we call the corona – and discovered fine details that have never been detected before.

    The Sun is a complex object, and with the soon-to-be-launched Parker Solar Probe we’re on the verge of learning so much more about it.

    NASA Parker Solar Probe Plus

    But there’s still a lot we can do with our current technology, as scientists from the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) have just demonstrated.

    The team used the COR-2 coronagraph instrument on NASA’s Solar and Terrestrial Relations Observatory-A (STEREO-A) to study details in the Sun’s outer atmosphere.

    NASA/STEREO spacecraft

    This instrument takes images of the atmosphere by using what is known as an occulting disc – a disc placed in front of the lens that blocks out the actual Sun from the image, and therefore the light that would overwhelm the fine details in the plasma of the Sun’s atmosphere.

    The corona is extremely hot, much hotter than the inner photosphere’s 5,800 Kelvin, coming in at between 1 and 3 million Kelvin. It’s also the source of solar wind – the constant stream of charged particles that flows out from the Sun in all directions.

    When measurements of the solar wind are taken near Earth, the magnetic fields embedded therein are complex and interwoven, but it’s unclear when this turbulence occurs.

    “In deep space, the solar wind is turbulent and gusty,” says solar physicist Craig DeForest of the SwRI.

    “But how did it get that way? Did it leave the Sun smooth, and become turbulent as it crossed the solar system, or are the gusts telling us about the Sun itself?”

    If the turbulence was occurring at the source of the solar wind – the Sun – then we should have been able to see complex structures in the corona as the cause of it, but previous observations showed no such structures.

    Instead, they showed the corona as a smooth, laminar structure. Except, as it turns out, that wasn’t the case. The structures were there, but we hadn’t been able to obtain a high enough image resolution to see them.

    2
    NASA/SwRI/STEREO

    “Using new techniques to improve image fidelity, we realised that the corona is not smooth, but structured and dynamic,” DeForest explains. “Every structure that we thought we understood turns out to be made of smaller ones, and to be more dynamic than we thought.”

    To obtain the images, the research team ran a special three-day campaign wherein the instrument took more frequent and longer-exposure images than it usually does, allowing more time for light from faint sources to be detected by the coronagraph. But that was only part of the process.

    Although the occulting disc does a great job at filtering out the bright light from the Sun, there’s still a great deal of noise in the resulting images, both from the surrounding space and the instrument.

    Obviously, since STEREO-A is in space, altering the hardware isn’t an option, so DeForest and his team worked out a technique for identifying and removing that noise, vastly improving the data’s signal-to-noise ratio.

    They developed new filtering algorithms to separate the corona from noise, and adjust brightness. And, perhaps more challengingly, correct for the blur caused by the motion of the solar wind.

    They discovered that the coronal loops known as streamers – which can erupt into the coronal mass ejections that send plasma and particles shooting out into space – are not one single structure.

    “There is no such thing as a single streamer,” DeForest said. “The streamers themselves are composed of myriad fine strands that, together, average to produce a brighter feature.”

    They also found there’s no such thing as the Alfvén surface – a theoretical, sheet-like boundary where the solar wind starts moving forward faster than waves can travel backwards through it, and it disconnects from the Sun, moving beyond its influence.

    Instead, DeForest said, “There’s a wide ‘no-man’s land’ or ‘Alfvén zone’ where the solar wind gradually disconnects from the Sun, rather than a single clear boundary.”

    But the research also presented a new mystery to probe, as well. At a distance of about 10 solar radii the solar wind suddenly changes character. But it returns to normal farther out from the Sun, indicating that there’s some interesting physics happening at 10 solar radii.

    Figuring out what that is may require some help from Parker, for which this research is key. Parker is due to launch in August.

    Meanwhile, the team’s research has been published in The Astrophysical Journal.

    See the full article here .

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    SwRI Campus

    Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) is an independent, nonprofit applied research and development organization. The staff of nearly 2,800 specializes in the creation and transfer of technology in engineering and the physical sciences. SwRI’s technical divisions offer a wide range of technical expertise and services in such areas as engine design and development, emissions certification testing, fuels and lubricants evaluation, chemistry, space science, nondestructive evaluation, automation, mechanical engineering, electronics, and more.

     
  • richardmitnick 11:16 am on July 17, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , NASA's Parker Solar Probe, Touching the Sun   

    From JHU HUB: “A look behind the scenes at the Parker Solar Probe” 

    Johns Hopkins

    From JHU HUB

    1

    7.16.18

    Videographer Lee Hobson and photographer Ed Whitman spend their days documenting mankind’s mission to “touch” the sun.

    By Hub staff report / Published a day ago

    Lee Hobson and Ed Whitman flew to Florida in style three months ago, touching down in the Sunshine State in a Boeing C-17 loaded with priceless cargo: the Parker Solar Probe.

    NASA Parker Solar Probe Plus

    Hobson, director of photography for the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, is the video documentary lead for the APL-led mission to “touch” the sun. He and Whitman, APL’s senior photographer, have spent the past four years painstakingly documenting the construction and testing of the probe, which is scheduled to launch in August. Flying through the sun’s corona, or atmosphere, and facing heat and radiation like no spacecraft before it, the Parker Solar Probe will provide new data on solar activity and make critical contributions to scientists’ ability to forecast major space-weather events that impact life on Earth.

    2
    Lee Hobson (left) and Ed Whitman inside the clean room at Cape Canaveral. Image credit: Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory

    The Hub caught up with Hobson and Whitman to talk about their work, the mission, and what it’s like to stand in the presence of the spacecraft that could change humanity’s understanding of Earth’s closest star.

    How did you get involved with APL and documenting its projects?

    Ed Whitman: As a kid, I was always fascinated with how things worked. There was nothing in my home that was safe from me and a screwdriver. I knew early on that I wanted to do photography, and I had my own company for many years, but when the opportunity at APL came up it just seemed like the right fit. I took the position and just loved it because, you know, I’m basically a frustrated engineer.

    Lee Hobson: I joined in 1988 as a staff photographer and then moved into the video sector in 1996. On any given day I could be working in air defense or force projections, or national security analysis and research, or of course space exploration. That’s what’s really cool about APL—there’s a lot of different things we work on.

    3
    “[W]e’re working next to the spacecraft that’s going to fly within 4 million miles of the sun, and I get to walk around the launchpad. That’s really cool,” says Hobson.
    Image credit: Ed Whitman / Applied Physics Laboratory

    What’s it like to document the Parker Solar Probe?

    LH: The average day is about 10 hours here, but it’s sometimes as long as 15 hours depending on what we’re doing. Ed and I are unique in that when the day’s operation is finished, we don’t go home, we come back to the office to edit footage. So it can be a really long day.

    EW: We do press releases for the public, and those are more like the milestone events when significant things happen. But day to day, I’m working with the mechanical team, shooting everything that’s being integrated into the spacecraft—every nut, every bolt, every process that takes place. And that’s helpful because if the mechanical team gets a faulty software reading or a piece of hardware that’s not functioning properly, they can go back through our photos and images and diagnose the problem.


    Video: Lee Hobson / Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory

    What’s been your favorite experience documenting the Solar Probe?

    LH: I’ve really enjoyed writing and editing the Solar 60 video series. I wanted to come up with a way of telling a story through the eyes of our different technicians and scientists and engineers. They get to be the reporters, and they have great camera presence, and I get to be the producer and script writer. So that’s a lot of fun, getting to tell those stories. And, of course, the access that I have to the spacecraft. I mean, we’re working next to the spacecraft that’s going to fly within 4 million miles of the sun, and I get to walk around the launchpad. So that’s really cool.

    EW: For me, it’s interesting to see the process of building something that’s so highly engineered and thought out but is still a one-off that’s never been built before. And I got to integrate my photography with the mechanical team for a test they needed to conduct: They had to lift the spacecraft way up in the sky and then drop down this magnetometer boom, and they had to do it really carefully so they could see how things were working. As it was coming down, I was walking around taking photos in 360 degrees, and I was shooting the photos to the lead engineer using my iPad. I mean, this $2 billion spacecraft is dangling from this lift in front of me and from my photos, the engineer can see the boom harness and determine the clearance and how it interacts with the spacecraft.

    4
    Engineers created a bank of lasers to test the solar arrays that will power the spacecraft. “When we turned off the lights, magical things happened,” says Whitman. “Reflections and a purple glow everywhere… Visually, it was really incredible.” Image credit: Ed Whitman / Applied Physics Laboratory

    What’s the most surprising thing about your work with the Solar Probe?

    EW: The spacecraft is so light! It’s only 1,500 pounds, and it’s being launched in literally the biggest launch vehicle ever built, the Delta IV Heavy. It’s a monster! It stands in front of you like a building. You feel so tiny and insignificant when you look at it, and the spacecraft—they call it a hood ornament—it’s this tiny thing in this giant housing, but those are the things that are going to fall away during launch. It’s just mind-boggling to me.

    6
    “[The spacecraft is] being launched in literally the biggest launch vehicle ever built, the Delta IV Heavy. It’s a monster! It stands in front of you like a building,” says Whitman.
    Image credit: Ed Whitman / Applied Physics Laboratory

    How do you think you’ll feel when the Parker Solar Probe finally launches?

    EW: I’ll feel probably sad and elated. Happy that I was part of something that’s just so awesome, but sad in the sense that I don’t want it to end because it’s just so exciting and so interesting.

    LH: I’m always really proud when we have a successful launch, and we’ve gotten that telemetry maybe 20 minutes after launch that means it survived and that the engineers built a really good spacecraft. But also I’ll feel really proud when we start to get the data sent back. I mean, the Parker Solar Probe is going to rewrite the textbooks with new information about the sun and the corona, and I’ve touched it—the spacecraft that’s going to fly around our sun and give scientists information that they never knew before. That’s really exciting.

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings
    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    About the Hub

    We’ve been doing some thinking — quite a bit, actually — about all the things that go on at Johns Hopkins. Discovering the glue that holds the universe together, for example. Or unraveling the mysteries of Alzheimer’s disease. Or studying butterflies in flight to fine-tune the construction of aerial surveillance robots. Heady stuff, and a lot of it.

    In fact, Johns Hopkins does so much, in so many places, that it’s hard to wrap your brain around it all. It’s too big, too disparate, too far-flung.

    We created the Hub to be the news center for all this diverse, decentralized activity, a place where you can see what’s new, what’s important, what Johns Hopkins is up to that’s worth sharing. It’s where smart people (like you) can learn about all the smart stuff going on here.

    At the Hub, you might read about cutting-edge cancer research or deep-trench diving vehicles or bionic arms. About the psychology of hoarders or the delicate work of restoring ancient manuscripts or the mad motor-skills brilliance of a guy who can solve a Rubik’s Cube in under eight seconds.

    There’s no telling what you’ll find here because there’s no way of knowing what Johns Hopkins will do next. But when it happens, this is where you’ll find it.

    Johns Hopkins Campus

    The Johns Hopkins University opened in 1876, with the inauguration of its first president, Daniel Coit Gilman. “What are we aiming at?” Gilman asked in his installation address. “The encouragement of research … and the advancement of individual scholars, who by their excellence will advance the sciences they pursue, and the society where they dwell.”

    The mission laid out by Gilman remains the university’s mission today, summed up in a simple but powerful restatement of Gilman’s own words: “Knowledge for the world.”

    What Gilman created was a research university, dedicated to advancing both students’ knowledge and the state of human knowledge through research and scholarship. Gilman believed that teaching and research are interdependent, that success in one depends on success in the other. A modern university, he believed, must do both well. The realization of Gilman’s philosophy at Johns Hopkins, and at other institutions that later attracted Johns Hopkins-trained scholars, revolutionized higher education in America, leading to the research university system as it exists today.

     
  • richardmitnick 11:09 am on December 21, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , Mission to the sun: Special delivery - Parker Solar Probe heads to NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center for environmental testing, , NASA's Parker Solar Probe   

    From JHU HUB- “Mission to the sun: Special delivery – Parker Solar Probe heads to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center for environmental testing” 

    Johns Hopkins
    JHU HUB

    12.20.17
    Hub staff report

    Spacecraft designed, built at JHU’s Applied Physics Lab is scheduled for launch in 2018.

    1
    The Parker Solar Probe team at Johns Hopkins APL prepares to lift the heat shield in preparation for shipment to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Image credit: NASA / Johns Hopkins APL / Ed Whitman.

    How do you prepare to move the first spacecraft to touch the sun? The same way you would move anything else: carefully wrap it, pack it, rent a truck, and perform a nitrogen purge.

    Last month, the Parker Solar Probe spacecraft traveled from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, where it was designed and built, to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. It’s a short drive, but it took significant preparation.

    2
    NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, shown in protective bagging to prevent contamination, is mounted on a rotating pedestal. Image credit: NASA / Johns Hopkins APL / Ed Whitman

    First, the spacecraft was wrapped in a special protective layer to prevent dust or dirt from reaching the probe. Then it was bolted to a specially designed pedestal that carefully tilted the probe onto its side to fit it inside a shipping container. If kept upright, the probe would have been too tall to pass under highway bridges during transport.

    Once boxed and loaded onto a truck bed, the scientists performed a nitrogen purge, slowly sucking air and moisture out of the container and replacing it with ultra-dry nitrogen with an extremely low dew point. A nitrogen purge is a common practice among military and commercial aerospace projects to prevent corrosive moisture and condensation from reaching sensitive electronics.

    3
    Image credit: NASA / Johns Hopkins APL / Ed Whitman

    The move, accompanied by a state police escort, took place at 4 a.m.—to avoid traffic, of course.

    4
    No, it’s not a still from the movie E.T., it’s members of the testing team preparing the Parker Solar Probe for environmental testing in the Acoustic Test Chamber at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Image credit: NASA / Johns Hopkins APL / Ed Whitman.

    At Goddard, the Parker Solar Probe has undergone extensive testing and simulations to ensure it’s ready for its historic mission next year (launch is scheduled for between July 31 and Aug. 19).

    It underwent an acoustic test, which subjected the probe to sound forces like those generated during a rocket launch. Goddard’s Acoustic Test Chamber is a 42-foot-tall chamber that uses 6-foot-tall speakers that can reach 150 decibels to simulate the extreme noise of the Delta IV Heavy, the highest-capacity rocket currently in operation and the vehicle that will carry the probe into space.

    The spacecraft’s specially designed Thermal Protection System, or TPS, has also gone through thorough testing. The heat shield, developed by scientists at APL and the Whiting School of Engineering, is made of carbon-carbon composite material to protect the probe from the intense heat of the sun’s atmosphere, which can reach temperatures of almost 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit. As the spacecraft hurtles through the hot solar atmosphere and back out into outer space, the TPS will keep the instruments on the spacecraft at approximately room temperature.

    5
    The probe’s Thermal Protection System is lowered into the Thermal Vacuum Chamber at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in preparation for environmental testing. Image credit: NASA / Johns Hopkins APL / Ed Whitman.

    The heat shield was tested in Goddard’s Thermal Vacuum Chamber, which simulated the harsh conditions that it will endure during the mission.

    During its mission, the Parker Solar Probe will use seven Venus flybys over the course of nearly seven years to gradually shrink its orbit around the sun, coming as close as 3.7 million miles—about eight times closer to the sun than any spacecraft has come before. Upon its closest orbit, the Parker Solar Probe will be traveling at about 450,000 miles per hour. That’s fast enough to get from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C., in one second.

    The solar probe, named for Eugene Parker, the astrophysicist who predicted the existence of the solar wind in 1958, is a “true mission of exploration,” the scientists write on the mission homepage. “Still, as with any great mission of discovery, Parker Solar Probe is likely to generate more questions than it answers.”

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.
    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    About the Hub

    We’ve been doing some thinking — quite a bit, actually — about all the things that go on at Johns Hopkins. Discovering the glue that holds the universe together, for example. Or unraveling the mysteries of Alzheimer’s disease. Or studying butterflies in flight to fine-tune the construction of aerial surveillance robots. Heady stuff, and a lot of it.

    In fact, Johns Hopkins does so much, in so many places, that it’s hard to wrap your brain around it all. It’s too big, too disparate, too far-flung.

    We created the Hub to be the news center for all this diverse, decentralized activity, a place where you can see what’s new, what’s important, what Johns Hopkins is up to that’s worth sharing. It’s where smart people (like you) can learn about all the smart stuff going on here.

    At the Hub, you might read about cutting-edge cancer research or deep-trench diving vehicles or bionic arms. About the psychology of hoarders or the delicate work of restoring ancient manuscripts or the mad motor-skills brilliance of a guy who can solve a Rubik’s Cube in under eight seconds.

    There’s no telling what you’ll find here because there’s no way of knowing what Johns Hopkins will do next. But when it happens, this is where you’ll find it.

    Johns Hopkins Campus

    The Johns Hopkins University opened in 1876, with the inauguration of its first president, Daniel Coit Gilman. “What are we aiming at?” Gilman asked in his installation address. “The encouragement of research … and the advancement of individual scholars, who by their excellence will advance the sciences they pursue, and the society where they dwell.”

    The mission laid out by Gilman remains the university’s mission today, summed up in a simple but powerful restatement of Gilman’s own words: “Knowledge for the world.”

    What Gilman created was a research university, dedicated to advancing both students’ knowledge and the state of human knowledge through research and scholarship. Gilman believed that teaching and research are interdependent, that success in one depends on success in the other. A modern university, he believed, must do both well. The realization of Gilman’s philosophy at Johns Hopkins, and at other institutions that later attracted Johns Hopkins-trained scholars, revolutionized higher education in America, leading to the research university system as it exists today.

     
  • richardmitnick 8:44 pm on October 6, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: A mission to the Sun first recommended in 1958 is set to launch in 2018, , ISIS-Integrated Scientific Investigation of the Sun instrument suite, NASA's Parker Solar Probe,   

    From Eos: “Solar Probe Will Approach Sun Closer Than Any Prior Spacecraft” 

    AGU bloc

    AGU
    Eos news bloc

    Eos

    4 October 2017
    Randy Showstack

    NASA Parker Solar Probe Plus

    A mission to the Sun first recommended in 1958 is set to launch in 2018, 6 decades later. NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, which the agency plans to send to space next summer for a nearly 7-year journey, will fly within 4 million miles (6.4 million kilometers) of the Sun’s surface, more than 7 times closer than any other satellite. There, it will help scientists seek answers to fundamental questions about our star such as why its outer atmosphere, or corona, is several hundreds of times hotter than the photosphere, or the Sun’s surface.

    The mission “is a real voyage of discovery,” said Nicola Fox, project scientist for the probe at Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Md. “We’ve been to every major planet, but we’ve never managed to go up into the corona.” Until recently, we haven’t had the technology needed for a spacecraft to fly so close to the Sun and survive, Fox noted.

    She spoke with Eos in an interview last week in a clean room at APL where the probe was temporarily housed in its full flight configuration. APL is implementing the mission for NASA.

    Although scientists have learned a great deal about the Sun from remote sensing and from other spacecraft operating within the outward flow of energetic, charged particles from the Sun known as the solar wind, “you really need to get into [the solar atmosphere] to be able to answer the fundamental questions,” said Fox, who is a member of the Eos Editorial Advisory Board.

    In addition to probing why the corona sizzles at temperatures about 300 times higher those at the surface, the mission aims to explore “why in this region the solar wind suddenly gets so energized that it can actually break away from the pull of the Sun and move out at millions of miles an hour to bathe all of the planets,” Fox added. Entering the envelope of hot plasma surrounding the star may also help researchers understand more about high-energy solar particles.

    Technological Advances

    The probe is named for astrophysicist Eugene Parker, professor emeritus at the University of Chicago, who in 1958 wrote a paper about what is now referred to as the solar wind and whose work underpins a great deal of our knowledge about how stars interact with planets. In the decades since a committee of the National Academy of Sciences recommended the mission, improvements in thermal protection technology have made it possible to shield the spacecraft and its suite of instruments from the intense radiation and heat from the Sun.

    On 21 September, scientists lowered an 11.43-centimeter-thick carbon composite heat shield onto the probe to test its alignment and ensure that it will shade the craft and keep the instruments safe in the harsh environment. Those instruments will study the Sun’s electric and magnetic fields, plasma, and energetic particles and image the solar wind.

    “Everything lives in the shadow” created by the heat shield that will always be oriented to face toward the Sun, said James Kinnison of APL, a mission system engineer for the space probe who also spoke with Eos in the clean room. With the heat shield forming a cone-shaped shadow, “all the electronics stay at normal temperature [and] nothing gets really hot as long as the heat shield is pointed toward the Sun,” he said.

    1
    Engineers at APL lowered the heat shield onto the Parker Solar Probe spacecraft last month to test alignment. Credit: NASA/JHUAPL, CC BY 2.0

    Because the spacecraft will often need to operate autonomously when it is behind the Sun or subject to communication delays because of its distance from Earth, the probe includes a system to detect and quickly recover from even a slight misalignment of its axis.

    “If it starts tilting, for instance, that would be a problem that would have to be detected very quickly, and you want to recover from that,” said Kinnison. “We do an awful lot of testing on the spacecraft here on Earth before we launch to know that that’s going to work. We’re very certain that it will work.”

    The development of solar power arrays able to withstand the intense solar environment has also enabled the mission, Kinnison said. The probe will operate on about 350 watts of power for all of its science and engineering needs, including collecting scientific measurements and downlinking data. Aside from the solar array and the heat shield, most of the spacecraft’s other components are “relatively normal,” he said.

    Space Weather

    Fox and others noted that the mission, which has a launch window from 31 July to 19 August 2018, could help scientists to better understand how outbursts of energy and particles from the Sun, known as space weather, affect Earth. “We can have beautiful aurora. We can also have catastrophic events,” Fox said. “Until you go up and really understand what’s going on in that region, you really can’t do a better job of predicting what’s going to hit the Earth. So [the mission] is important for fundamental science, but it has very real world impacts.”

    It could lead to “transformational changes to the models that we use to predict space weather,” she added.

    Eric Christian, deputy principal investigator for the solar probe’s Integrated Scientific Investigation of the Sun (ISIS) instrument suite, told Eos that the Sun’s activities can affect the power grid and human and satellite operations in space.

    Just as terrestrial weather forecasting has gotten better, space weather forecasting also needs to improve, he contended.

    “If we want to spread throughout the solar system with robots and manned missions,” Christian said, “we’re going to need to understand [the Sun and space weather] better.”

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    Eos is the leading source for trustworthy news and perspectives about the Earth and space sciences and their impact. Its namesake is Eos, the Greek goddess of the dawn, who represents the light shed on understanding our planet and its environment in space by the Earth and space sciences.

     
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