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  • richardmitnick 12:47 pm on January 16, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Behind howls of solar wind quiet chirps reveal its origins", , , , , , , Solar research   

    From JHU HUB: “Behind howls of solar wind, quiet chirps reveal its origins” 

    From JHU HUB

    1.15.20
    Jeremy Rehm

    1
    Image credit: NASA/Naval Research Laboratory/Parker Solar Probe

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

    Scientists have studied the solar wind (pictured) for more than 60 years, but they’re still puzzled over some of its behaviors. The small chirps, squeaks, and rustles recorded by the Parker Solar Probe hint at the origin of this mysterious and ever-present wind.

    There’s a wind that emanates from the sun, and it blows not like a soft whistle but like a hurricane’s scream.

    Made of electrons, protons, and heavier ions, the solar wind courses through the solar system at roughly 1 million miles per hour, barreling over everything in its path. Yet through the wind’s roar, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe can hear small chirps, squeaks, and rustles that hint at the origins of this mysterious and ever-present wind. Now, the team at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, which designed, built, and manages the Parker Solar Probe for NASA, is getting their first chance to hear those sounds, too.

    “We are looking at the young solar wind being born around the sun,” says Nour Raouafi, mission project scientist for the Parker Solar Probe. “And it’s completely different from what we see here near Earth.”


    Sounds of the Solar Wind from NASA’s Parker Solar Probe

    Scientists have studied the solar wind for more than 60 years, but they’re still puzzled over many of its behaviors. For example, while they know it comes from the sun’s million-degree outer atmosphere called the corona, the solar wind doesn’t slow down as it leaves the sun—it speeds up, and it has a sort of internal heater that keeps it from cooling as it zips through space. With growing concern about the solar wind’s ability to interfere with GPS satellites and disrupt power grids on Earth, it’s imperative to better understand it.

    Just 17 months since the probe’s launch and after three orbits around the sun, Parker Solar Probe has not disappointed in its mission.

    “We expected to make big discoveries because we’re going into uncharted territory,” Raouafi says. “What we’re actually seeing is beyond anything anybody imagined.”

    Researchers suspected that plasma waves within the solar wind could be responsible for some of the wind’s odd characteristics. Just as fluctuations in air pressure cause winds that force rolling waves on the ocean, fluctuations in electric and magnetic fields can cause waves that roll through clouds of electrons, protons, and other charged particles that make up the plasma racing away from the sun. Particles can ride these plasma waves much like the way a surfer rides an ocean wave, propelling them to higher speeds.

    “Plasma waves certainly play a part in heating and accelerating the particles,” Raouafi says. Scientists just don’t know how much of a part. That’s where Parker Solar Probe comes in.

    The spacecraft’s FIELDS instrument can eavesdrop on the electric and magnetic fluctuations caused by plasma waves. It can also “hear” when the waves and particles interact with one another, recording frequency and amplitude information about these plasma waves that scientists can then play as sound waves. And it results in some striking sounds.

    2
    Parker Solar Probe Diagram instrument FIELDS. NASA

    Take, for example, whistler-mode waves. These are caused by energetic electrons bursting out of the sun’s corona. These electrons follow magnetic field lines that stretch away from the sun out into the solar system’s farthest edge, spinning around them like they’re riding a carousel. When a plasma wave’s frequency matches how frequently those electrons are spin, they amplify one another. And it sounds like a scene out of Star Wars.

    “Some theories suggest that part of the solar wind’s acceleration is due to these escaping electrons,” says David Malaspina, a member of the FIELDS team and an assistant professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics. He adds that the electrons could also be a critical clue to understanding one process that heats the solar wind.

    “We can use observations of these waves to work our way backward and probe the source of these electrons in the corona,” Malaspina says.

    Another example are dispersive waves, which quickly shift from one frequency to another as they move through the solar wind. These shifts create a sort of “chirp” that sounds like wind rushing over a microphone. They’re rare near the Earth, so researchers believed they were unimportant. But closer to the sun, scientists discovered, these waves are everywhere.

    “These waves haven’t been detected in the solar wind before, at least not in any large numbers,” Malaspina explains. “Nobody knows what causes these chirping waves or what they do to heat and accelerate the solar wind. That’s what we’re going to be determining. I think it’s incredibly exciting.”

    Raouafi commented that seeing all of this wave activity very close to the sun is why this mission is so critical. “We are seeing new, early behaviors of solar plasma we couldn’t observe here at Earth, and we’re seeing that the energy carried by the waves is being dissipated somewhere along the way, to heat and accelerate the plasma.”

    But it wasn’t just plasma waves that Parker Solar Probe heard. While barreling through a cloud of microscopic dust, the spacecraft’s instruments also captured a sound resembling old TV static. That static-like sound is actually hundreds of microscopic impacts happening every day: dust from asteroids torn apart by the sun’s gravity and heat and particles stripped away from comets strike the spacecraft at speeds close to a quarter of a million miles per hour. As Parker Solar Probe cruises through this dust cloud, the spacecraft doesn’t just crash into these particles—it obliterates them. Each grain’s atoms burst apart into electrons, protons, and other ions in a mini puff of plasma that the FIELDS instrument can “hear.”

    Each collision, however, also chips away a tiny bit of the spacecraft.

    “It was well understood that this would happen,” Malaspina says. “What was not understood was how much dust was going to be there.”

    APL engineers used models and remote observations to estimate how bad the dust situation might be well before the spacecraft launched. But in this uncharted territory, the number was bound to have some margin of error.

    James Kinnison, the Parker Solar Probe mission system engineer at APL, says this discrepancy in dust density is just one more reason why the probe’s proximity to the sun is so useful.

    “We protected almost everything from the dust,” Kinnison says. And although the dust is denser than expected, nothing right now points to dust impacts being a concern for the mission, he adds.

    Parker Solar Probe is scheduled to make another 21 orbits around the sun, using five flybys of Venus to propel itself increasingly closer to the star. Researchers will have the opportunity to better understand how these plasma waves change their behavior and to build a more complete evolutionary picture of the solar wind.

    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.

    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 12:21 pm on January 2, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Observational Data Validate Models of Sun’s Influence on Earth", , NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory, NASA’s Solar Radiation and Climate Experiment (SORCE), Recently researchers have relied on models of TSI and SSI developed by the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) and known as NRLTSI2 and NRLSSI2, Solar research, SSI also measures the solar power per unit area but at discrete wavelengths within a certain range and with a certain resolution that is determined by the instrument making the measurements., SSI-solar spectral irradiance, TSI measures the total solar power per unit area that reaches Earth’s upper atmosphere across all wavelengths, TSI-total solar irradiance   

    From Eos: “Observational Data Validate Models of Sun’s Influence on Earth” 

    From AGU
    Eos news bloc

    From Eos

    1.2.20
    David Shultz

    Using a combination of independent models and observations over multiple timescales, scientists verify two important models that gauge the amount of solar radiation Earth receives.

    1
    The Sun’s active surface is seen here in extreme ultraviolet light by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory in May 2012. Understanding how the Sun’s output changes on multiple timescales allows scientists to create more accurate models of Earth and its climate. Credit: NASA/Solar Dynamics Observatory

    NASA/SDO

    Scientists often rely on two important metrics in quantifying the amount of solar energy transmitted to Earth: total solar irradiance (TSI) and solar spectral irradiance (SSI). TSI measures the total solar power per unit area that reaches Earth’s upper atmosphere across all wavelengths. SSI also measures the solar power per unit area, but at discrete wavelengths within a certain range and with a certain resolution that is determined by the instrument making the measurements.

    Tracking and modeling variations in the Sun’s output, which can vary significantly on timescales ranging from minutes to centuries, are crucial tasks in building a more complete understanding of Earth’s climate. Recently, researchers have relied on models of TSI and SSI developed by the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) and known as NRLTSI2 and NRLSSI2.

    The most reliable way to validate model outputs is by comparing them with satellite-based measurements. Humans have been collecting such data for only about 40 years, and many gaps exist both in time and in which wavelengths satellite instruments have recorded. To fill gaps and extend the record further into the past, scientists rely on models that use historical indicators of solar activity, such as sunspot numbers and cosmogenic isotopes preserved in tree rings and ice cores.

    In a new study, Coddington et al. [AGO 100] validate NRLTSI2 and NRLSSI2 by comparing them with independent models as well as with space-based observational data, especially from NASA’s Solar Radiation and Climate Experiment (SORCE). The researchers focused on measurements of both TSI and SSI at timescales ranging from days to a decade and eventually spanning the entire era of space exploration.

    They found good agreement in TSI estimates between NRLTSI2 and the SORCE data set on solar rotational timescales (roughly 1 month) as well as over a single solar cycle (about 11 years).

    Validating NRLSSI2 proved more challenging. The researchers found that the model performed well over short timescales and at ultraviolet and visible wavelengths when compared with observational estimates of SSI from SORCE and other missions, including the Ozone Monitoring Instrument and the Solar Irradiance Data Exploitation SSI composite. At wavelengths above 900 nanometers, though, the team could not validate the model because of instrument noise in observational data sets. Similarly, NRLSSI2 could not be validated on solar cycle timescales because there was not enough agreement among other data sets for a comparison to be made.

    The researchers highlight these gaps as areas for future study and suggest that both NRLTSI2 and NRLSSI2 are still valid tools for assessing the Sun’s influence on Earth.

    See the full article here .

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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    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.

     
  • richardmitnick 7:53 am on December 24, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Orbiting the Sun together", ESA’s Solar Orbiter, , Solar research   

    From European Space Agency – United space in Europe: “Orbiting the Sun together” 

    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    From European Space Agency – United space in Europe

    United space in Europe

    23/12/2019

    On 6 February, ESA’s #SolarOrbiter will be launched from the Kennedy Space Center in the USA on a mission to study the Sun up-close.

    ESA/NASA Solar Orbiter depiction

    Solar Orbiter, an ESA-led mission with strong NASA participation, will provide the first views of the Sun’s unchartered polar regions from high-latitudes, giving unprecedented insight into how our parent star works. This important mission will also investigate the Sun-Earth connection, helping us to better understand and predict periods of stormy space weather.

    Have you ever asked yourself how is a star born or wondered how our planets developed? Or how does ESA fly sophisticated missions to the hottest regions of our Solar System? Are you a passionate communicator who uses social media to engage the world?

    Continue reading if this sounds interesting to you!

    ESA will invite up to 40 social media enthusiasts to visit Europe’s mission control centre in Germany on 5 and 6 February, watch the Solar Orbiter launch, meet top experts and learn more about our Sun, the Solar Orbiter mission and how ESA inspires exploration.

    2
    Solar Orbiter unpacking

    Invitees will experience:

    Behind-the-scenes guided tour of ESA’s mission control facilities
    Meet the #SolarOrbiter Flight Director and other mission experts
    Meet and interact with ESA and European scientists and researchers
    Receive briefings and updates on solar physics, space weather and space debris
    Join the launch media briefing

    This event is designed for people who:

    Actively use one or more social networking platforms and tools to disseminate information to a unique audience.
    Regularly produce new content that features multimedia elements.
    Have the potential to reach a large number of people using digital platforms.
    Reach a unique audience, separate and distinctive from traditional news media and/or ESA audiences.
    Must have an established history of posting content on social media platforms.
    Have previous postings that are highly visible, respected and widely recognised.
    Follow one or more of ESA’s social media channels.

    Dates, times and venue

    This edition of #SocialSpace will be held at ESA’s mission control centre in Darmstadt, Germany, all day on Wednesday 5 February, and in the morning of Thursday, 6 February.

    Applicants will be responsible to make their own travel arrangements and cover their own costs, and must be at least 18 years old on 5 February 2020.

    Are you interested? Get ready to take one more step: Apply!

    Application period

    The online applications website will open on Tuesday, 7 January, and all applications must be submitted no later than Monday, 13 January, at 12:00 CET.

    An invitation email with confirmation information and additional instructions will be sent to the selected participants and to those on the waiting list no later than 14 January.

    Applications from anyone are welcome. Applicants who are a citizen or permanent resident of any of these countries will be given priority: ESA Member State, ESA Associate Member State, ESA Cooperating States, EU Member States, ISS partner states, Argentina and Australia.

    You’ll be asked to include your name, social media name(s) and contact information, and − most importantly – a few words describing your motivation or interest in joining.

    There will also be terms and conditions.

    Follow ESA’s @Social4Space, @esaoperations and @esascience Twitter accounts for updates.

    The official hashtags for the event are #SolarOrbiter and #WeAreAllSolarOrbiters

    Questions? Send an email to esoc.communication@esa.int or tweet using the hashtag.

    See the full article here .


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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    The European Space Agency (ESA), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.

    ESA50 Logo large

     
  • richardmitnick 8:46 am on December 19, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Probing the Solar Wind Up Close, Solar research   

    From Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics: “Probing the Solar Wind Up Close” 

    Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics


    From Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

    December 13, 2019

    The sun glows with a surface temperature of about 5500 degrees Celsius but its hot outer layer, the corona, has a temperature of over a million degrees. The corona ejects a wind of charged particles, and in 1957 Eugene Parker realized that this wind, already known to be responsible for the direction of comets’ tails, could move faster than the speed of sound and could easily bombard the Earth. He developed a theory for the solar wind, and today that wind is known for producing auroral glows and even disrupting global communications.

    There are two important, longstanding, and related questions about the wind that astronomers have been working to answer: How does the corona become heated to temperatures so much hotter than the surface, and how does the corona generate and then shape the wind as it expels particles into space? The approximate answer to the first question involves the ionized material in the hot corona. The moving gas generates powerful magnetic field loops that, when they twist and break, can accelerate charged particles. The answer to the second question has been even more difficult to ascertain because the solar wind has only been sampled so far by spacecraft whose closest approach to the sun has been about thirty million miles, about the same distance from the sun as the orbit of Mercury. By this distance, however, scientists think that the wind has already undergone changes that obscure key details of its driving sources in the corona.

    In August, 2018, NASA launched the Parker Solar Probe to approach within 3.8 million miles of the sun’s surface in a series of progressively closer approaches to answer this and other pressing questions.

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

    In November 2018 and April 2019 the probe completed its first pass, coming about twice as close to the sun as any previous probe, and the results have just been published in a series of articles in Nature. CfA astronomers Justin Kasper, Anthony Case, Leon Golub, Kelly Korreck, and Michael Stevens, play leadership roles on the Parker team, including development of one of Parker’s instruments, SWEAP (the Solar Wind Electrons Alphas and Protons Investigation). In the new papers, the team demonstrates for the first time that the solar wind near the sun is much more structured and dynamic than it is at Earth. The direction of the magnetic field, for example, undergoes rapid reversals that last for only minutes. Although some similar magnetic field behaviors had been spotted before, the large amplitude and the high occurrence rates of the reversals seen by Parker were surprising. The precise nature of these reverse structures is unknown, but astronomers suspect that plasma instabilities like these play a much larger role in the dynamics and energetics of the solar wind than had previously been expected.

    In related discoveries, the spacecraft found that as the wind streams out into space, parts of it race ahead in high-velocity “rogue” waves with nearly double the speed of the solar wind. Parker flew through more than 1,000 of these spikes; they too are still mysterious. In fact, some particles are apparently being accelerated to speeds nearing the speed of light in events that can be impulsive as well as gradual. A third surprising result was how quickly the solar wind in general rotates around the sun. Models had suggested that the wind flows in this direction at a speed of a few kilometers per second, but the Parker Solar Probe measured it moving much faster, about 35 to 50 kilometers a second. The reason for this is also not known. Parker has several more years to orbit the sun in even closer approaches, and during this time the sun enter a more active phase. These first results have already demonstrated the success of the mission and signal that many more discoveries – and a new understanding of the solar wind – lies ahead.

    Reference(s):
    Alfvénic velocity spikes and rotational flows in the near-Sun solar wind, Nature

    Probing the Energetic Particle Environment Near the Sun, Nature

    Highly Structured Slow Solar Wind Emerging from an Equatorial Coronal Hole, Nature

    See the full article here .


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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    The Center for Astrophysics combines the resources and research facilities of the Harvard College Observatory and the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory under a single director to pursue studies of those basic physical processes that determine the nature and evolution of the universe. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) is a bureau of the Smithsonian Institution, founded in 1890. The Harvard College Observatory (HCO), founded in 1839, is a research institution of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard University, and provides facilities and substantial other support for teaching activities of the Department of Astronomy.

     
  • richardmitnick 1:49 pm on December 17, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Forced magnetic reconnection, , Solar research, This was the first observation of an external driver of magnetic reconnection   

    From NASA: “NASA’s SDO Sees New Kind of Magnetic Explosion on Sun” 


    From NASA

    Dec. 17, 2019
    Mara Johnson-Groh
    mara.johnson-groh@nasa.gov
    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

    NASA/SDO

    1
    Forced magnetic reconnection, caused by a prominence from the Sun, was seen for the first time in images from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO. This image shows the Sun on May 3, 2012, with the inset showing a close-up of the reconnection event imaged by SDO’s Atmospheric Imaging Assembly instrument, where the signature X-shape is visible. Credit: NASA/SDO/Abhishek Srivastava/IIT(BHU)​

    NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory has observed a magnetic explosion the likes of which have never been seen before. In the scorching upper reaches of the Sun’s atmosphere, a prominence — a large loop of material launched by an eruption on the solar surface — started falling back to the surface of the Sun. But before it could make it, the prominence ran into a snarl of magnetic field lines, sparking a magnetic explosion.

    Scientists have previously seen the explosive snap and realignment of tangled magnetic field lines on the Sun — a process known as magnetic reconnection — but never one that had been triggered by a nearby eruption. The observation, which confirms a decade-old theory, may help scientists understand a key mystery about the Sun’s atmosphere, better predict space weather, and may also lead to breakthroughs in the controlled fusion and lab plasma experiments.

    “This was the first observation of an external driver of magnetic reconnection,” said Abhishek Srivastava, solar scientist at Indian Institute of Technology (BHU), in Varanasi, India. “This could be very useful for understanding other systems. For example, Earth’s and planetary magnetospheres, other magnetized plasma sources, including experiments at laboratory scales where plasma is highly diffusive and very hard to control.”

    Previously a type of magnetic reconnection known as spontaneous reconnection has been seen, both on the Sun and around Earth. But this new explosion-driven type — called forced reconnection — had never been seen directly, thought it was first theorized 15 years ago. The new observations have just been published in The Astrophysical Journal.

    The previously-observed spontaneous reconnection requires a region with just the right conditions — such as having a thin sheet of ionized gas, or plasma, that only weakly conducts electric current — in order to occur. The new type, forced reconnection, can happen in a wider range of places, such as in plasma that has even lower resistance to conducting an electric current. However, it can only occur if there is some type of eruption to trigger it. The eruption squeezes the plasma and magnetic fields, causing them to reconnect.

    While the Sun’s jumble of magnetic field lines are invisible, they nonetheless affect the material around them — a soup of ultra-hot charged particles known as plasma. The scientists were able to study this plasma using observations from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, looking specifically at a wavelength of light showing particles heated 1-2 million kelvins (1.8-3.6 million F).

    The observations allowed them to directly see the forced reconnection event for the first time in the solar corona — the Sun’s uppermost atmospheric layer. In a series of images taken over an hour, a prominence in the corona could be seen falling back into the photosphere. En route, the prominence ran into a snarl of magnetic field lines, causing them to reconnect in a distinct X shape.


    Forced magnetic reconnection, caused by a prominence from the Sun, was seen for the first time in images from NASA’s SDO.
    Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

    Spontaneous reconnection offers one explanation for how hot the solar atmosphere is — mysteriously, the corona is millions of degrees hotter than lower atmospheric layers, a conundrum that has led solar scientists for decades to search for what mechanism is driving that heat. The scientists looked at multiple ultraviolet wavelengths to calculate the temperature of the plasma during and following the reconnection event. The data showed that the prominence, which was fairly cool relative to the blistering corona, gained heat after the event. This suggests forced reconnection might be one way the corona is heated locally. Spontaneous reconnection also can heat plasma, but forced reconnection seems to be a much more effective heater — raising the temperature of the plasma quicker, higher, and in a more controlled manner.

    While a prominence was the driver behind this reconnection event, other solar eruptions like flares and coronal mass ejections, could also cause forced reconnection. Since these eruptions drive space weather — the bursts of solar radiation that can damage satellites around Earth — understanding forced reconnection can help modelers better predict when disruptive high-energy charged particles might come speeding at Earth.

    Understanding how magnetic reconnection can be forced in a controlled way may also help plasma physicists reproduce reconnection in the lab. This is ultimately useful in the field of laboratory plasma to control and stabilize them.

    The scientists are continuing to look for more forced reconnection events. With more observations they can begin to understand the mechanics behind the reconnection and often it might happen.

    “Our thought is that forced reconnection is everywhere,” Srivastava said. “But we have to continue to observe it, to quantify it, if we want prove that.”

    Related Links

    The Heart of Space Weather Observed in Action
    NASA Spacecraft Discovers New Magnetic Process in Turbulent Space
    NASA Keeps Watch Over Space Explosions
    Learn more about SDO

    See the full article here .

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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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

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

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

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

     
  • richardmitnick 1:59 pm on December 4, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Among the findings are new understandings of how the Sun's constant outflow of solar wind behaves., , , , , First NASA Parker Solar Probe Results Reveal Surprising Details About Our Sun, , Solar research, Switchbacks   

    From NASA Parker Solar Probe: “First NASA Parker Solar Probe Results Reveal Surprising Details About Our Sun” Updated with the four Nature Papers 

    NASA image

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

    From NASA Parker Solar Probe

    Dec. 4, 2019

    Grey Hautaluoma
    Headquarters, Washington
    202-358-0668
    grey.hautaluoma-1@nasa.gov

    Karen Fox
    Headquarters, Washington
    301-286-6284
    karen.fox@nasa.gov


    The WISPR image on NASA’s Parker Solar Probe captured imagery of the constant outflow of material from the Sun during its close approach to the Sun in April 2019. Credits: NASA/NRL/APL

    The Sun is revealing itself in dramatic detail and shedding light on how other stars may form and behave throughout the universe – all thanks to NASA’s Parker Solar Probe. The spacecraft is enduring scorching temperatures to gather data, which are being shared for the first time in four new papers that illuminate previously unknown and only-theorized characteristics of our volatile celestial neighbor.

    The information Parker has uncovered about how the Sun constantly ejects material and energy will help scientists rewrite the models they use to understand and predict the space weather around our planet, and understand the process by which stars are created and evolve. This information will be vital to protecting astronauts and technology in space – an important part of NASA’s Artemis program, which will send the first woman and the next man to the Moon by 2024 and, eventually, on to Mars.

    The four papers, now available online from the journal Nature, describe Parker’s unprecedented near-Sun observations through two record-breaking close flybys.

    Nature
    Nature
    Nature
    Nature

    They reveal new insights into the processes that drive the solar wind – the constant outflow of hot, ionized gas that streams outward from the Sun and fills up the solar system – and how the solar wind couples with solar rotation. Through these flybys, the mission also has examined the dust of the coronal environment, and spotted particle acceleration events so small that they are undetectable from Earth, which is nearly 93 million miles from the Sun.

    During its initial flybys, Parker studied the Sun from a distance of about 15 million miles. That is already closer to the Sun than Mercury, but the spacecraft will get even closer in the future, as it travels at more than 213,000 mph, faster than any previous spacecraft.

    “This first data from Parker reveals our star, the Sun, in new and surprising ways,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for science at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Observing the Sun up close rather than from a much greater distance is giving us an unprecedented view into important solar phenomena and how they affect us on Earth, and gives us new insights relevant to the understanding of active stars across galaxies. It’s just the beginning of an incredibly exciting time for heliophysics with Parker at the vanguard of new discoveries.”

    Among the findings are new understandings of how the Sun’s constant outflow of solar wind behaves. Seen near Earth, the solar wind plasma appears to be a relatively uniform flow – one that can interact with our planet’s natural magnetic field and cause space weather effects that interfere with technology. Instead of that flow, near the Sun, Parker’s observations reveal a dynamic and highly structured system, similar to that of an estuary that serves as a transition zone as a river flows into the ocean. For the first time, scientists are able to study the solar wind from its source, the Sun’s corona, similar to how one might observe the stream that serves as the source of a river. This provides a much different perspective as compared to studying the solar wind were its flow impacts Earth.

    2
    NASA’s Parker Solar Probe observed a slow solar wind flowing out from the small coronal hole – the long, thin black spot seen on the left side of the Sun in this image captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory – on October 27, 2018. While scientists have long known that fast solar wind streams flow from coronal holes near the poles, they have not yet conclusively identified the source of the Sun’s slow solar wind. Credits: NASA/SDO

    NASA/SDO

    Switchbacks

    One type of event in particular caught the attention of the science teams – flips in the direction of the magnetic field, which flows out from the Sun, embedded in the solar wind and detected by the FIELDS instrument. These reversals – dubbed “switchbacks” – appear to be a very common phenomenon in the solar wind flow inside the orbit of Mercury, and last anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes as they flow over the spacecraft. Yet they seem not to be present any farther from the Sun, making them undetectable without flying directly through that solar wind the way Parker has.

    During a switchback, the magnetic field whips back on itself until it is pointed almost directly back at the Sun. These switchbacks, along with other observations of the solar wind, may provide early clues about what mechanisms heat and accelerate the solar wind. Not only does such information help change our understanding of what causes the solar wind and space weather affecting Earth, it also helps us understand a fundamental process of how stars work and how they release magnetic energy into their environment.

    Rotating Wind

    In a separate publication, based on measurements by the Solar Wind Electrons Alphas and Protons (SWEAP) instrument, researchers found surprising clues as to how the Sun’s rotation affects the outflow of the solar wind. Near Earth, the solar wind flows past our planet as if it travels initially in almost straight lines – or “radially,” like spokes on a bicycle wheel – out from the Sun in all directions. But the Sun rotates as it releases the solar wind, and before it breaks free, the solar wind is expected to get a push in sync with the Sun’s rotation.

    As Parker ventured to a distance of around 20 million miles from the Sun, researchers obtained their first observations of this effect. Here, the extent of this sideways motion was much stronger than predicted, but it also transitioned more quickly than predicted to a straight, strictly outward flow, which helps mask the effects at a larger distance. This enormous extended atmosphere of the Sun will naturally affect the star’s rotation. Understanding this transition point in the solar wind is key to helping us understand how the Sun’s rotation slows down over time, with implications for the lifecycles of our star, its potentially violent past, as well as other stars and the formation of protoplanetary disks, dense disks of gas and dust encircling young stars.

    Dust in the Wind

    Parker also observed the first direct evidence of dust starting to thin out around 7 million miles from the Sun – an effect that has been theorized for nearly a century, but has been impossible to measure until now. These observations were made using Parker’s Wide-field Imager for Solar Probe (WISPR) instrument, at a distance of about 4 million miles from the Sun. Scientists have long suspected that close to the Sun, this dust would be heated to high temperatures, turning it into a gas and creating a dust-free region around the star. At the observed rate of thinning, scientists expect to see a truly dust-free zone beginning at a distance of about 2-3 million miles from the Sun, which the spacecraft could observe as early as September 2020, during its sixth flyby. That dust-free zone would signal a place where the material of the dust has been evaporated by the Sun’s heat, to become part of the solar wind flying past Earth.

    Energetic Particles

    Finally, Parker’s Integrated Science Investigation of the Sun (ISʘIS) energetic particle instruments have measured several never-before-seen events so small that all traces of them are lost before they reach Earth. These instruments have also measured a rare type of particle burst with a particularly high ratio of heavier elements – suggesting that both types of events may be more common than scientists previously thought. Solar energetic particle events are important, as they can arise suddenly and lead to space weather conditions near Earth that can be potentially harmful to astronauts. Unraveling the sources, acceleration and transport of solar energetic particles will help us better protect humans in space in the future.

    “The Sun is the only star we can examine this closely,” said Nicola Fox, director of the Heliophysics Division at NASA Headquarters. “Getting data at the source already is revolutionizing our understanding of our own star and stars across the universe. Our little spacecraft is soldiering through brutal conditions to send home startling and exciting revelations.”

    Data from Parker Solar Probe’s first two solar encounters are available online at:

    https://go.nasa.gov/34VPMGK

    For more information about Parker, visit:

    https://www.nasa.gov/parker

    Imagery from the mission is available at:

    https://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/13484

    See the full article here .

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

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

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

    For more information about Parker, visit:

    https://www.nasa.gov/parker

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

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

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

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

     
  • richardmitnick 9:05 am on November 22, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Solar Orbiter launch campaign begins", , , , , , Solar research   

    From European Space Agency – United space in Europe: “Solar Orbiter launch campaign begins” 

    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    From European Space Agency – United space in Europe

    United space in Europe

    21/11/2019

    ESA’s mission to the Sun has been unpacked following its arrival in Florida earlier this month, ready to begin pre-launch testing and checks.

    The mission is currently scheduled to lift off from Cape Canaveral launch complex late in the evening of 5 February U.S. time (early morning 6 February central European time) on an unprecedented mission to study our star up-close.

    An Antonov cargo plane transported the spacecraft and essential ground support equipment from Munich, Germany, to Florida, landing at the Shuttle Landing Facility at Kennedy Space Centre on 1 November. From there the satellite and equipment travelled by road to the AstroTech Space Operations facility. The first weeks were dedicated to setting up the equipment that will be needed to perform the upcoming checks and tests on the spacecraft. This will include repeated simplified tests of the spacecraft and science instruments so that the functioning of the various systems is confirmed as it was before the long flight, and checking of the propellant pressurisation system pressure before eventually fueling the spacecraft.

    2

    4

    3

    In the new year attention will shift to mating the spacecraft with the launch adapter and encapsulating the spacecraft inside the fairing. In the final stages of preparation, the spacecraft will be mounted atop the Atlas V 411 rocket and moved to the launch pad ready for liftoff.

    Once in space, and over the course of several years, the spacecraft will repeatedly use the gravity of Venus and Earth to raise its orbit above the poles of the Sun, providing new perspectives on our star, including the first images of the Sun’s polar regions. Its complementary suite of instruments means it will be able to study the plasma environment locally around the spacecraft and collect data from the Sun from afar, connecting the dots between the Sun’s activity and the space environment in the inner Solar System, which is essential to understand the effects of space weather at Earth.


    Solar Orbiter’s journey around the Sun.
    ESA/ATG medialab

    Animation showing the trajectory of Solar Orbiter around the Sun, highlighting the gravity assist manoeuvres that will enable the spacecraft to change inclination to observe the Sun from different perspectives.

    During the initial cruise phase, which lasts until November 2021, Solar Orbiter will perform two gravity-assist manoeuvres around Venus and one around Earth to alter the spacecraft’s trajectory, guiding it towards the innermost regions of the Solar System. At the same time, Solar Orbiter will acquire in situ data and characterise and calibrate its remote-sensing instruments. The first close solar pass will take place in 2022 at around a third of Earth’s distance from the Sun.

    The spacecraft’s orbit has been chosen to be ‘in resonance’ with Venus, which means that it will return to the planet’s vicinity every few orbits and can again use the planet’s gravity to alter or tilt its orbit. Initially Solar Orbiter will be confined to the same plane as the planets, but each encounter of Venus will increase its orbital inclination. For example, after the 2025 Venus encounter it will make its first solar pass at 17º inclination, increasing to 33º during a proposed mission extension phase, bringing even more of the polar regions into direct view.

    See the full article here .


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

    Stem Education Coalition

    The European Space Agency (ESA), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.

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  • richardmitnick 9:34 am on November 20, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Using AI to predict Earth’s future", , , , , , Solar research   

    From European Space Agency – United space in Europe: “Using AI to predict Earth’s future” 

    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    From European Space Agency – United space in Europe

    United space in Europe

    19/11/2019

    1

    A recent ‘deep learning’ algorithm – despite having no innate knowledge of solar physics – could provide more accurate predictions of how the Sun affects our planet than current models based on scientific understanding.

    For decades, people have tried to predict the impact of the Sun on our planet’s atmosphere. Up until now, algorithms based on solar physics have been used to predict the shifting density of Earth’s atmosphere.

    But with so many variables affecting the complex and dynamic layers of gases around Earth, Artificial Intelligence (AI) could provide real improvements in this area because of its ability to handle vastly more complex data, with important implications for how we fly missions in Earth orbit.

    The Sun’s a real drag

    The conditions in space vary depending on the mood swings of the Sun, known as ‘space weather’. The Sun spews out radiation in a constant stream, but it sometimes also sends out violent bursts of high energy particles that can directly hit our planet. These particles cause geomagnetic storms – temporary disturbances in Earth’s protective magnetic field.


    What is space weather?

    Earth’s atmosphere is also affected by these outbursts, as geomagnetic storms and increased ultraviolet light heat the upper atmosphere, causing it to expand. As heated air rises, its density at orbits of up to 1000 km increases, and satellites in the vicinity experience more resistance, or ‘drag’, causing them to slow down and shift orbit.

    2
    ESA ADM-Aeolus satellite

    Without intervention, such as firing the thrusters to keep them aloft, satellites would slowly fall to Earth and burn up in the atmosphere. At mission control, we are routinely lifting the orbit of our fleet of Earth explorers.

    Improving these predictions would allow operators to plan longer and more accurate cycles of correction manoeuvres, meaning less thruster firings would be needed, increasing the amount of time satellites can spend gathering scientific data.

    Vitally, our knowledge of the future position of spacecraft would also increase, so we could predict more accurately the chances of collisions in space, helping us to protect our spacecraft in the current space debris environment.

    Atmospheric predictions

    Two important factors are needed to make atmospheric predictions: the solar index and the geomagnetic index. Both measurements are taken from Earth, and collected in several places across the globe.

    3
    Solar flare seen by ESA/NASA SOHO satellite 23 January

    ESA/NASA SOHO

    The solar index comes from what is called the ‘10.7cm Solar Radio Flux’ – the amount of light emitted by the Sun with a wavelength of 10.7cm. ‘F10.7’, as it is also known, is an excellent proxy for solar activity, and because it can be observed in all weather conditions, measurements can be taken every day, come rain or shine.

    The geomagnetic index is used to characterise the size of storms in Earth’s magnetic field, caused by activity at the Sun. Such storms can severely disrupt electrical power grids, spacecraft operations, radio signals and of course the beautiful aurora borealis at the poles.

    3
    Space weather effects

    “We observe the past, but we can only predict the future” says Pere Ramos Bosch, Flight Dynamics Engineer at ESA’s ESOC operations centre.

    “We currently use an algorithm developed long ago, that takes the evolution of the values of the F10.7 and geomagnetic indices from previous years, as well as knowledge of solar and atmospheric physics, to make predictions for the next 27 days.”

    However, current predictions are in general pretty inaccurate. Although we haven’t lost a mission yet, our lack of understanding of how atmospheric density changes is the largest source of error when it comes to flying satellites in low-Earth orbit, such as the Aeolus wind mission and Sentinel series of Earth explorers.

    Could AI make a difference?

    ESA is now testing an entirely different algorithm that uses the same measured data from the Sun and Earth, but ignores physics altogether and instead employs ‘deep learning’. Teams are hoping it will use its ‘Long Short Term Memory’ to recognise complex relationships and patterns that we humans just cannot detect.

    “We are about to start getting results, but it looks like AI is proving to make the best use of data available,” says David Remili, a Luxembourg National Trainee in ESA’s Artificial Intelligence and Operations Innovation Group who has been tasked with developing the AI prediction tool.

    “It’s a privilege to be given the resources to combine AI and astrophysics, and ultimately to positively impact how space missions are flown.”

    So far the AI tool seems promising, but stay tuned to find out which algorithm better predicts the future, and whether we can use these new computing abilities to better understand the interactions between the Solar System and our home.

    5
    Predicting an unpredictable star. David Remili, a Luxembourg National Trainee in ESA’s Artificial Intelligence and Operations Innovation Group is currently evaluating how we can best understand our atmosphere under the influence of the Sun.

    Solar warning


    Space weather describes the changing environment throughout the Solar System, driven by the energetic and unpredictable nature of our Sun. Solar wind, solar flares and Coronal Mass Ejections can result in geomagetic storms on Earth, potentially damaging satellites in space and the technologies that rely on them, as well as infrastructure on the ground.

    ESA’s future Lagrange mission will keep constant watch on the Sun. The satellite, located at the fifth Lagrange point, will send early warning of potentially harmful solar activity before it affects satellites in orbit or power grids on the ground, giving operators the time to act to protect vital infrastructure.

    ESA is now working with European industry to assess options for the spacecraft and its mission, with initial proposals expected early in 2020.

    ESA’s future Lagrange mission to monitor the Sun

    ESA’s future Lagrange mission will keep constant watch on the Sun. The satellite, located at the fifth Lagrange point, will send early warning of potentially harmful solar activity before it affects satellites in orbit or power grids on the ground, giving operators the time to act to protect vital infrastructure.

    See the full article here .


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

    Stem Education Coalition

    The European Space Agency (ESA), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.

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  • richardmitnick 9:25 am on November 17, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Realigning magnetic fields may drive the sun’s spiky plasma tendrils", , Solar research   

    From Science News: “Realigning magnetic fields may drive the sun’s spiky plasma tendrils” 

    From Science News

    November 14, 2019
    Christopher Crockett

    1

    Whiskery plasma jets, known as spicules, on the sun appear as dark, threadlike structures in this image, acquired at the Goode Solar Telescope in Big Bear, Calif. T. Samanta, GST & SDO

    1
    The Goode Solar Telescope pointed at the Sun in the morning.
    Date 23 July 201
    Big Bear Solar Observatory
    Location Big Bear Lake, California, US
    Altitude 2,060 m (6,760 ft)

    NASA/SDO

    Tendrils of plasma near the surface of the sun emerge from realignments of magnetic fields and pump heat into the corona, the sun’s tenuous outer atmosphere, a study suggests.

    The new observation, described in the Nov. 15 Science, could help crack the century-plus mystery of where these plasma whiskers, called spicules, come from and what role — if any — they play in heating the corona to millions of degrees Celsius.

    Spicules undulate like a wind-whipped field of wheat in the chromosphere, the layer of hot gas atop the sun’s surface. These plasma filaments stretch for thousands of kilometers and last for just minutes, shuttling ionized gas into the corona. Astronomers have long debated how spicules form — with the sun’s turbulent magnetic field being a prime suspect — and whether they can help explain why the corona is a few hundred times as hot as the sun’s surface (SN: 8/20/17).

    To look for connections between spicules and magnetic activity, solar physicist Tanmoy Samanta of Peking University in Beijing and colleagues pointed the Goode Solar Telescope, at Big Bear Solar Observatory in California, at the sun. They snapped images of spicules forming, while also measuring the surrounding magnetic field. The team discovered that thickets of spicules frequently emerged within minutes after pockets of the local magnetic field reversed course and pointed in the opposite direction from the prevailing field in the area.

    Counterpointing magnetic fields create a tension that gets resolved when the fields break and realign, and the team postulates that the energy released in this “magnetic reconnection” creates the spicules. “The magnetic field energy is converted to kinetic and thermal energy,” says study coauthor Hui Tian, a solar physicist also at Peking University. “The kinetic energy is in the form of fast plasma motion — jets, or spicules.”

    To see if this energy made it into the corona, the team pored through images acquired at the same time by NASA’s orbiting Solar Dynamics Observatory. Those data revealed a glow from charged iron atoms directly over the spicules. That glow, Tian says, means the plasma reached roughly 1 million degrees Celsius. Whether that’s enough to sustain the scorching temperature throughout the corona, however, remains to be seen.

    “Their observations are amazing,” says Juan Martínez-Sykora, a solar physicist at the Lockheed Martin Solar & Astrophysics Laboratory in Palo Alto, Calif.

    Capturing this level of detail is difficult, Martínez-Sykora says, because individual spicules are relatively small and come and go so quickly. He does caution, though, that the magnetic reconnection story needs to be checked with computer simulations or more observations. As it stands, it remains a postulation, he says.

    See the full article here .


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

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

     
  • richardmitnick 10:29 am on November 12, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Ten Suns for 10 years", , , , , ESA’s Proba-2 satellite, , Solar research   

    From European Space Agency – United space in Europe: “Ten Suns for 10 years” 

    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    From European Space Agency – United space in Europe

    1

    Last week marked a milestone for ESA’s Proba-2 satellite: 10 years of operation in orbit around the Earth. Since its launch on 2 November 2009, Proba-2 (PRoject for OnBoard Autonomy) has probed the intricacies of the Sun and its connection to our planet, imaging and observing our star and investigating how it drives all manner of complex cosmic phenomena: from solar eruptions and flares to closer-to-home space weather effects.

    ESA/Proba2

    This image shows 10 different views of the Sun captured throughout Proba-2’s lifetime, processed to highlight the extended solar atmosphere – the part of the atmosphere that is visible around the main circular disc of the star.

    Characterising this part of the Sun is a key element of Proba-2’s solar science observations. Solar activity is closely tied to the space weather we experience closer to Earth. Understanding more about how the Sun behaves – and how this behaviour changes over time, including whether it may be predictable – is crucial in our efforts to prepare for space weather events capable of damaging both space-based and terrestrial communications systems.

    The Sun’s activity has a cycle of about 11 years, with the presence and strength of phenomena such as flares, coronal mass ejections, dark ‘coronal holes’ and bright ‘active regions’ fluctuating accordingly. These images were taken by Proba-2’s extreme-ultraviolet SWAP (Sun watcher using APS detectors and image processing) instrument, and show a snapshot of the Sun in January or February of each year from 2010 to 2019 (with the oldest frame on the top left, and the most recent to the bottom right). This mosaic thus neatly shows the variability in the solar atmosphere in beautiful detail, demonstrating how this cycle affects the Sun. The Sun begins in a phase of low activity (solar minimum: top left) in 2010; enters a phase of increasing activity and then shows highest activity in 2014 (solar maximum: top right). It slowly calms down again to enter a low-activity phase in 2019 (another minimum: bottom right).

    As its name suggests, Proba-2 is the second satellite launched under ESA’s ‘Project for Onboard Autonomy’ umbrella: a series of small, low-cost missions that are testing a wide array of advanced technologies in space. These missions are helping us understand and develop everything from solar monitoring to vegetation mapping to autonomous Earth observation. Future members of the Proba family will also be equipped to create artificial eclipses by flying two satellites together in formation to block the bright disc of the Sun for hours at a time, so that scientists can better observe fainter regions that are usually outshone.

    For now, Proba-2 will continue to monitor the Sun, including an upcoming celestial event: the satellite’s SWAP camera will observe Mercury today as it transits across the face of the Sun, an event that only takes place around 13 times per century and will not occur again until 2032.

    The individual frames of the image shown here were captured on (top row, left to right): 20 February 2010, 1 February 2011, 20 January 2020, 5 February 2013, 28 January 2014, and (bottom row, left to right) 19 January 2015, 5 February 2016, 22 January 2017, 2 February 2018, and 1 February 2019.

    See the full article here .


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

    Stem Education Coalition

    The European Space Agency (ESA), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.

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