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  • 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", , , , , , , , Solar research   

    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
    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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

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

    NASA/Goddard Campus

  • richardmitnick 1:24 pm on February 13, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , ExtremeTech, , Solar research   

    From ExtremeTech: “Solar Probe Begins Its Second Orbit of the Sun” 

    From ExtremeTech

    Jan 31, 2019
    Ryan Whitwam

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

    NASA’s Parker solar surveyor became a record-setter at the beginning of its mission when it took the title of fastest spacecraft in history from the wildly successful New Horizons probe. It made history again a few weeks later by flying through the sun’s corona and beaming back data. Now, NASA reports that Parker has completed a full orbit of the sun, and it’s diving back for another pass.

    Parker entered full operational status on Jan. 1 with all systems operating normally. It has started relaying mountains of data via the Deep Space network — NASA says it has collected more than 17 gigabytes so far. Parker has collected so much data that it’ll take several more months to get all of it sent back. The data dump from the first orbit should be done just in time for Parker to dive into the sun’s corona again.

    NASA Deep Space Network

    In preparation for the upcoming solar pass, NASA is busily clearing space on the probe’s internal solid state drives. As data makes it back to Earth, NASA deletes the corresponding files on Parker. The spacecraft is also getting new navigational information, which NASA transmits one month at a time.

    NASA says it expects Parker to reach perihelion (the closest approach to the sun) on Apr. 4. This will be the second of 24 planned orbits that promise to advance our understanding of the sun. Parker’s mission has been in the works for years. NASA has long wanted to study the sun’s corona, but the technology to protect a probe was beyond our abilities until just recently. You’d probably expect the surface of the sun to be hotter than the space around it, but that’s not the case. The corona of ionized plasma surrounding the sun is around one million Kelvin, 300 times hotter than the surface.


    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

  • richardmitnick 1:18 pm on December 13, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Solar research, The Parker Solar Probe takes its first up-close look at the sun   

    From Science News: “The Parker Solar Probe takes its first up-close look at the sun” 

    From Science News

    December 12, 2018
    Lisa Grossman

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

    The spacecraft broke speed and distance records on its initial solar flyby.

    FIRST LOOK One of the first images NASA’s Parker Solar Probe took during its close encounter with the sun shows a streamer of plasma in the outer solar atmosphere, or corona. The probe took this image November 8 at a distance of about 27 million kilometers from the sun’s surface. The bright dot below the streamer is Jupiter. Parker Solar Probe/NASA and Naval Research Laboratory

    NASA’s Parker Solar Probe has met the sun and lived to tell the tale.

    The sun-grazing spacecraft has already broken the records for the fastest space probe and the nearest brush any spacecraft has made with the sun. Now the probe is sending data back from its close solar encounter, scientists reported December 12 at the American Geophysical Union meeting in Washington, D.C.

    “What we are looking at now is completely brand new,” solar physicist Nour Raouafi of Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab in Laurel, Md., said at a news conference. “Nobody looked at this before.”

    Parker launched August 12 (SN Online: 8/12/18) and will make 24 close passes by the sun over the next seven years, eventually going to within about 6 million kilometers of the sun’s surface (SN: 7/21/18, p. 12). The spacecraft made its first close flyby November 6, swooping to within roughly 24 million kilometers of the solar surface. That’s about twice as close to the sun as the previous closest spacecraft, the Helios spacecraft in the 1970s. At peak speed, Parker was racing at about 375,000 kilometers per hour, roughly twice Helios’ speed.

    But because the probe was on the opposite side of the sun from Earth during the flyby, Parker didn’t start relaying its observations until December 7.

    After the probe emerged from behind the sun, the Parker team got its first up-close look at the wispy outer solar atmosphere, called the corona. One of the first images from Parker’s camera shows unprecedented detail in a solar streamer, a filament of plasma in the corona. The team hopes that Parker’s data will help solve the mystery of why the corona is about 300 times as hot as the sun’s surface (SN Online: 8/20/17).

    Only about one-fifth of the data recorded during Parker’s initial flyby will reach scientists before the sun gets between Earth and the spacecraft again. The rest of the data will be downlinked next year, between March and May. Scientists hope to start publishing results soon after.

    “If you ask any scientist in the team or even outside what to expect, I think the answer would be, we don’t really know,” Raouafi said. “We are almost certain we’ll make new discoveries.”

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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  • richardmitnick 9:41 am on December 4, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , CLASP-Chromospheric Lyman-Alpha Spectro-Polarimeter, , , , Solar chromosphere, Solar research   

    From Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias – IAC via Manu Garcia: “A Sun more complex than expected” 

    From Manu Garcia, a friend from IAC.

    The universe around us.
    Astronomy, everything you wanted to know about our local universe and never dared to ask.


    From Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias – IAC

    Nov. 28, 2018

    Contacts at the IAC:
    Javier Trujillo Bueno

    Jiri Stepan

    Andrés Asensio Ramos

    Tanausú del Pino Alemán:

    FIGURE 1: View of the structure of temperature via a vertical section in a three – dimensional (3D) model of the solar atmosphere resulting from a magneto-hydrodynamic simulation chromosphere (see Carlsson et al 2016. A & A, 585, A4 ). The solid curve shows the heights (Z) in this model from which the photons from the center of the Lyman-α observed by CLASP (note that almost coincides with the transition region between the chromosphere and the crown model) line. The summary in this press release research shows that in the solar atmosphere the geometry of the transition region is much more complex. For more details see Trujillo Good and the CLASP team (2018; The Astrophysical Journal Letters, 866, L15).

    FIGURE 2: Negative high image resolution chromosphere obtained
    with an instrument selected central radiation of a cromosférica line,
    which gives information about the structure of the plasma around 300 km
    below the transition region. Credit: J. Harvey (NSO, USA..).

    The CLASP experiment (Chromospheric Lyman-Alpha Spectro-Polarimeter) was launched on 2015 September 3. The instrument, onboard a NASA suborbital rocket, measured with great success and for the first time the linear polarization of the strongest spectral line of the solar ultraviolet spectrum, the hydrogen Lyman-α line.

    IAC CLASP Chromospheric Lyman-Alpha Spectro-Polarimeter

    This international experiment (Japan, USA and Europe) was motivated by theoretical investigations carried out in 2011 at the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC). Thanks to the unprecedented observations provided by the CLASP instrument, the scientific team was able to confirm most of the theoretical predictions. However, the observed polarization signals, contrary to those calculated in today’s theoretical models of the solar atmosphere, do not show any significant variation in their line-center amplitude when the line of sight goes from the center to the edge of the solar disk. “This was a very interesting surprise that aroused great scientific interest, because the spectral lines of the solar visible spectrum (which can be observed with ground-based telescopes) show such a variation”, says Javier Trujillo Bueno, professor of the Spanish Research Council at the IAC and one of the principal investigators of CLASP.

    The radiation of the Lyman-α line encodes information about the physical properties of the transition region, an enigmatic geometrically thin region where in less than 100 km the temperature suddenly jumps from the ten thousand degrees of the chromosphere to the million degrees of the corona. It is in these regions of the outer solar atmosphere where the explosive phenomena that can affect the Earth’s magnetosphere takes place. “The puzzling lack of a clear variation in the amplitude of the polarization signal when going from the center to the edge of the solar disk hides clues about the structure of the transition region”, says Jiri Stepan of the Astronomical Institute of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic and one of the members of CLASP, presently on a working visit at the IAC.

    The fact that the CLASP observations cannot be reproduced by today’s models of the solar atmosphere suggests that the 3D structure of the chromosphere-corona transition region is much more complex than previously thought. In order to confirm this idea, the scientific team has carried out a complex theoretical investigation in order to determine the magnetization and geometrical complexity of the transition region that best explains the experimental data.

    With the help of the MareNostrum supercomputer of the National Supercomputing Center in Barcelona, the researchers have calculated what would be the expected polarization signals for a large number of 3D atmospheric models, constructed by changing the degree of magnetization and geometrical complexity of the 3D solar model atmosphere illustrated in Figure 1.

    MareNostrum Lenovo supercomputer of the National Supercomputing Center in Barcelona

    Such study has led to two important conclusions, namely, the transition region of the atmospheric model that most likely explains the CLASP observations has a significantly larger degree of geometrical complexity and a smaller degree of magnetization. The results of this investigation make it evident the need to develop more realistic 3D models of the solar atmosphere, by including phenomena such as spicules, ubiquitous in high-resolution observations of the line-core intensity in strong chromospheric lines (see Figure 2), but not present in today’s 3D models of the solar atmosphere.

    The Principal Investigators of the CLASP project are:

    Amy Winebarger (NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, NASA/MSFC)
    Ryouei Kano (National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, NAOJ)
    Frédéric Auchère (Institut d’Astrophysique Spatiale, IAS)
    Javier Trujillo Bueno (Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias, IAC)

    Related press releases:

    CLASP has a successful mission
    A new research window in Solar Physics: Ultraviolet Spectropolarimetry

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    The Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias(IAC) is an international research centre in Spain which comprises:

    The Instituto de Astrofísica, the headquarters, which is in La Laguna (Tenerife).
    The Centro de Astrofísica en La Palma (CALP)
    The Observatorio del Teide (OT), in Izaña (Tenerife).

    These centres, with all the facilities they bring together, make up the European Northern Observatory(ENO).

    The IAC is constituted administratively as a Public Consortium, created by statute in 1982, with involvement from the Spanish Government, the Government of the Canary Islands, the University of La Laguna and Spain’s Science Research Council (CSIC).

    The International Scientific Committee (CCI) manages participation in the observatories by institutions from other countries. A Time Allocation Committee (CAT) allocates the observing time reserved for Spain at the telescopes in the IAC’s observatories.

    The exceptional quality of the sky over the Canaries for astronomical observations is protected by law. The IAC’s Sky Quality Protection Office (OTPC) regulates the application of the law and its Sky Quality Group continuously monitors the parameters that define observing quality at the IAC Observatories.

    The IAC’s research programme includes astrophysical research and technological development projects.

    The IAC is also involved in researcher training, university teaching and outreachactivities.

    The IAC has devoted much energy to developing technology for the design and construction of a large 10.4 metre diameter telescope, the ( Gran Telescopio CANARIAS, GTC), which is sited at the Observatorio del Roque de los Muchachos.

    Gran Telescopio Canarias at the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory on the island of La Palma, in the Canaries, SpainGran Telescopio CANARIAS, GTC

  • richardmitnick 3:51 pm on November 27, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , How to Look Inside a Star With Artificial Intelligence and Sound Waves, Solar research   

    From Discover Magazine: “How to Look Inside a Star With Artificial Intelligence and Sound Waves” 


    From Discover Magazine

    November 27, 2018
    Chelsea Gohd

    The fiery behavior of a star can be observed as sound waves. A pair of astronomers has built an AI network to better study stars using these sound waves. (Credit: NASA)

    Star Sound Waves

    Using artificial intelligence (AI) and sound waves, researchers have found a possible means of looking inside stars.

    It’s based on the fact that stars aren’t solid objects — far from it, in fact. They’re intense, vibrating balls of plasma held together by their own gravity and with wildly energetic nuclear reactions at their core. Now, researchers say that they’re beginning to find ways to discern the internal state of a star by looking at the vibrations that propagate from its core through to the surface.

    Ringing Like A Bell

    The energy in stars is constantly in motion. The extreme, high energy of a star’s core is always moving outwards towards the cold, low energy of space. These sound waves resonate throughout the star, and smaller stars producer a higher pitch than larger stars, just like a smaller bell would produce a higher pitch than a larger bell. By studying a star’s sound waves, researchers can tell how old a star is, how big it is, what it’s made of and more.

    “Stellar sound waves are very similar to the symphonies in our concert halls here on Earth,” Radboud University researcher and study co-author Luc Hendriks said in an email. “These sound waves are caused by starquakes. These quakes create sound with specific frequencies, just as flutes or guitars or pianos have specific “tones” and “overtones” (or harmonics). So from the tones, we deduce how big the star is, as the sound probes the size of the “concert hall”. So for us, a star is a gigantic 3D musical instrument, and its sound waves probe the physical conditions in its interior.”

    Most recently, researchers have studied stellar sound waves using NASA’s Kepler space telescope and NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS).

    NASA/Kepler Telescope


    These instruments are able to observe and measure stellar sound waves by studying the brightness of the stars. Stellar vibrations reveal themselves visibly as brightening and dimming, so instruments like Kepler and TESS have been able to observe stellar sound waves by watching the stars twinkle. In its lifetime, Kepler observed the sound waves of tens of thousands of stars and TESS is expected to observe the sound waves of up to one million red giants.

    Using sophisticated computer models, Hendriks and Katholieke Universiteit Leuven astronomer Conny Aerts think they’ve found a brand new way to use these stellar vibrations to see what’s going on inside stars.
    Stellar AI

    Hendriks and Aerts fed simulations of star activity, created using computer models that collect and synthesize information about stars, to an AI network. The network absorbed this stellar information and found relationships between internal variables like stellar mass, age and what elements the stars contain and the vibration patterns visible on their surfaces. The network then takes this information and applies it to real stars.

    This allows the AI to take real-life stellar sound wave data and compare it to the simulations to discern some of the internal characteristics of a star. This AI will be a new tool for researchers studying stars through their sound waves. It is even possible that the AI might be able to analyze raw stellar sound wave data quicker than a human.

    But, this star-analyzing AI network is still very new, and hard results are still to come. The researchers’ paper on the technology is posted on the pre-print server arXiv at the moment, and has been accepted to the technical journal of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, but it has not yet been peer-reviewed.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

  • richardmitnick 11:44 am on November 1, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , , Solar research   

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

    Johns Hopkins

    From JHU HUB

    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.

    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 .

    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 1:27 pm on October 24, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Biermann battery effect, , , , , Solar research   

    From COSMOS Magazine: “Supercomputer finds clues to violent magnetic events” 

    Cosmos Magazine bloc

    From COSMOS Magazine

    24 October 2018
    Phil Dooley

    An aurora over Iceland, the product of sudden magnetic reconnection. Credit Natthawat/Getty Images

    Researchers are a step closer to understanding the violent magnetic events that cause the storms on the sun’s surface and fling clouds of hot gas out into space, thanks to colossal computer simulations at Princeton University in the US.

    The disruptions in the magnetic field, known as magnetic reconnections, are common in the universe – the same process causes the aurora in high latitude skies – but existing models are unable to explain how they happen so quickly.

    A team led by Jackson Matteucci decided to investigate by building a full three-dimensional simulation of the ejected hot gas, something that required enormous computing power. The results are published in the journal Physical Review Letters.

    The researchers modelled more than 200 million particles using Titan, the biggest supercomputer [no longer true, the writer should have known that] in the US.

    ORNL Cray Titan XK7 Supercomputer, once the fastest in the world.

    They discovered that a three-dimensional interaction called the Biermann battery effect was at the heart of the sudden reconnection process.

    Discovered in the fifties by German astrophysicist Ludwig Biermann, the Biermann battery effect shows how magnetic fields can be generated in charged gases, known as plasma.

    In such plasmas, if a region develops in which there is a temperature gradient at right angles to a density gradient, a magnetic field is created that encircles it.

    Astrophysicists propose that this effect might take place in interstellar plasma clouds, such as nebulae, and generate the cosmic magnetic fields that we see throughout the universe.

    In contrast with the huge scale of cosmic plasma clouds, magnetic reconnection happens at a scale of microns when two magnetic fields collide, says Matteucci.

    He likens the process to collisions between two sizable handfuls of rubber bands. In stable circumstances the magnetic field lines are loops, like the bands. But sometimes turbulence in the plasma pushes these band analogues together so forcefully that they sever and reconnect to different ones, thus forming loops at different orientations.

    Some of the new loops are stretched taut and snap back, providing the energy that ejects material so violently, and causes magnetic storms or glowing auroras.

    The Princeton simulation showed that as the fields collide there is a sudden spike in the temperature in a very localised region, which sets off the Biermann battery effect, suddenly creating a new magnetic field in the midst of the collision. It’s this newly-appearing field that severs the lines and allows them to reconfigure.

    Although Matteucci’s simulations are for tiny plasma clouds generated by lasers hitting foil, he says they could help us understand large-scale processes in the atmosphere.

    “If you do a back of the envelope calculation, you find it could play an important role in reconnection in the magnetosphere, where the solar wind collides with the Earth’s magnetic field,” he says.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

  • richardmitnick 5:37 pm on October 18, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Solar research, Sunspot facility on Sacramento Peak in the southern part of New Mexico   

    From SETI Institute: “Mysterious goings-on at a New Mexico solar observatory have been hot news” 

    SETI Logo new
    From SETI Institute

    Sep 21, 2018
    Seth Shostak, Senior Astronomer

    Sunspot facility on Sacramento Peak in the southern part of New Mexico, Elevation 9,186 ft (2,800 m)

    For the past two weeks, mysterious goings-on at a New Mexico solar observatory have been hot news. On Sept. 6, the Sunspot facility on Sacramento Peak in the southern part of the state was strung with yellow tape, and employees were sent home. This set off alarm bells across the Internet: Had astronomers found a lethal solar flare, or even signs of alien life? And was there a government cover-up?

    After days of rampant speculation, authorities finally fessed up and explained the situation as a “security issue.” They offered scant details but indicated that there had been a threat to people on the peak and that secrecy was necessary.

    Now the scare is over, all systems are “go” and the observatory is back in business. A nonstory, in other words. Except that there is something to ponder here.

    Why did the fantastic explanations for the hush-up get so much traction? A dangerous event on the sun — such as a coronal mass ejection that might disable satellites or disrupt the electric grid — could be quickly ruled out. There are dozens of solar observatories around the world, and all would have seen something and said something.

    But aliens … well, that might make more sense. At least to the large fraction of the populace who believe the government is covering up evidence of extraterrestrial life. A 2012 National Geographic poll found that nearly 80 percent of Americans think that the government is hiding information about the presence of aliens.

    The Sac Peak story fed into these beliefs, and offered a perfect storm of shadowy circumstances. To begin with, an observatory seems to have a direct connection to aliens because telescopes scrutinize the sky — where extraterrestrials hang out when they’re not spiriting folks out of suburban bedrooms. And Sac Peak is only 105 air miles from the tiny town of Corona (northwest of Roswell) where — according to UFO lore — alien aviators purportedly ditched their flying saucer seven decades ago. To add suspicion to intrigue, Sac Peak’s work has been supported by government money, which to some makes it simultaneously suspect and malevolent.

    So of course it could be aliens.

    But why are the public, and even the media, so often drawn to this explanation for just about anything related to space? Americans seem prone to believe that tens of thousands of bureaucrats (or scientists, such as those working for NASA) could be corralled into making hugely important discoveries and keeping them secret. After all, it happens on TV all the time.

    For its part, our government does often act covertly. There was that five-year Pentagon UFO study revealed last December, for instance. And in the case of the Sac Peak closure, it does seem strange that authorities would say secrecy was necessary. The endless news stories about the observatory would be tip-off enough to any per perpetrator.

    When it comes to possible research cover-ups, I’m relentlessly skeptical. I know from decades of experience that science is open: It operates by demanding confirmation and making results public. “Publish or perish” may be a cliché, but it is nonetheless true. If you, as a scientist, keep your work secret, you’ll soon be seeking another line of work.

    Whatever happened at Sac Peak has yet to be explained. Aliens, to me, are highly unlikely to be part of the story. But in America, whenever the facts remain obscure you can always count on fevered imaginations to offer up their own unsteady illumination.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 3:24 pm on September 23, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: 'Latitudinal differential rotation’, , Latitudinal differential rotation can be much stronger in some stars than in the Sun, , , Photometric light curves, Solar equators rotate faster than higher latitudes, Solar research, Stars are too far away to be resolved in astronomical images. However scientists can indirectly obtain spatial information about stellar interiors using stellar oscillations, Stellar rotation, Stellar rotation is determined by tracking starspots at different latitudes in photometric light curves   

    From Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research: “A new twist on stellar rotation” 

    From Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research

    September 21, 2018

    Prof. Dr. Laurent Gizon
    Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Göttingen
    +49 551 384979-439

    Dr. Birgit Krummheuer
    Press Office
    Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization, Göttingen
    +49 551 5176-668

    Like our sun, distant stars are rotating spheres of hot gas.

    Sun-like stars rotate differentially, with the equator rotating faster than the higher latitudes. The green arrows in the figure represent rotation speed in the stellar convection zone. Differential rotation is inferred from the oscillatory motions of the star seen as orange/blue shades on the right side of the picture. Differential rotation is thought to be an essential ingredient for generating magnetic activity and starspots. © MPS / MarkGarlick.com

    Stars, however, do not rotate like solid spheres: regions at different latitudes rotate at different rates. A group of researchers from New York University and the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in Germany has now measured the rotational patterns of a sample of Sun-like stars.

    They have identified 13 stars that rotate in a similar fashion as our Sun: their equators rotate faster than their mid latitudes. This rotation pattern is, however, much more pronounced than in the Sun: the stars’ equators are found to rotate up to twice as quickly as their mid-latitudes. This difference in rotation speed is much larger than theories had suggested.

    What do we know about distant stars aside from their brightness and colors? Is our Sun a typical star? Or does it show certain properties that make it special, or maybe even unique? One property that is not fully understood is rotation. In its outer layers the Sun has a rotation pattern that scientists refer to as `latitudinal differential rotation’. This means that different latitudes rotate at different rates. While at the Sun’s equator one full rotation takes approximately 25 days, the higher latitudes rotate more slowly. Near the Sun’s poles, one full rotation takes approximately 31 days.

    In their new work the scientists studied the rotation of 40 stars that resemble the Sun with respect to mass. Among those, the 13 stars for which differential rotation could be measured with confidence all show solar-like differential rotation: equators rotate faster than higher latitudes. In some cases, however, the difference in rotational speed between the equator and the mid-latitudes is much larger than in the Sun.

    Classically, stellar rotation is determined by tracking starspots at different latitudes in photometric light curves. This method is limited, however, because we do not know the latitudes of the starspots. “Using observations from NASA’s Kepler mission we can now probe the interior of stars with asteroseismology and determine their rotational profiles at different latitudes and depths”, says Laurent Gizon, director at MPS.

    Stars are too far away to be resolved in astronomical images. They are point like. However scientists can indirectly obtain spatial information about stellar interiors using stellar oscillations. Stars undergo global acoustic oscillations that are excited by convective motions in their outer layers. Different modes of oscillations probe different regions in a star. Thus the frequencies of oscillation inform us about different regions. In this study the scientists used stellar oscillations to measure rotation at different latitudes in the outer convection zone. “Modes of oscillation that propagate in the direction of rotation move faster than the modes that propagate in the opposite direction, thus their frequencies are slightly different”, says Gizon.

    “Our best measurements all reveal stars with solar-like rotation”, says Gizon. The most surprising aspect of this research is that latitudinal differential rotation can be much stronger in some stars than in the Sun. The scientists did not expect such large values, which are not predicted by numerical models.

    This work is important as it shows that asteroseismology has fantastic potential to help us understand the inner workings of stars. “Information about stellar differential rotation is key to understanding the processes that drive magnetic activity”, says Gizon. Combining information about internal rotation and activity, together with modeling, will most likely reveal the root causes of magnetic activity in stars. However, many more Sun-like stars must be studied for this to happen. In 2026 the European Space Agency will launch the PLATO mission (an exoplanet mission, like Kepler) to characterize tens of thousands of bright Sun-like stars using precision asteroseismology.


    Large-number statistics will be key to studying the physics of stars and their evolution.

    Science paper:
    Asteroseismic detection of latitudinal differential rotation in 13 Sun-like stars
    Science, 21. September 2018

    See the full article here .


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    Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research

    The Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research has had an eventful history – with several moves, changes of name, and structural developments. The first prototype of the current institute was founded in 1934 in Mecklenburg; it moved to Katlenburg-Lindau in 1946. Not just the location of the buildings changed – the topic of research also moved, from Earth to outer space. In the first decades the focus of research was the stratosphere and ionosphere of the Earth, but since 1997 the institute exclusively researches the physics of planets and the Sun. In January 2014 the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research has relocated to it’s new home: a new building in Göttingen close to the Northern Campus of the University of Göttingen.

  • richardmitnick 3:30 pm on August 27, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, , , NASA Parker Solar Probe Energetic Particle Instrument-Hi (EPI-Hi) Caltech, Naval Research Laboratory, Solar research   

    From JPL-Caltech: “JPL Roles in NASA’s Sun-Bound Parker Solar Probe with JHUAPL and USNRL” 

    NASA JPL Banner


    From JPL-Caltech

    August 27, 2018
    DC Agle
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

    JoAnna Wendel
    NASA Headquarters, Washington

    Geoffrey Brown
    The Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Maryland

    Illustration of NASA’s Parker Solar Probe approaching the Sun. Image Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Steve Gribben

    The navigation for NASA’s Parker Solar Probe is led by the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, which also has a role in two of the spacecraft’s four onboard instrument suites. Parker Solar Probe will fly closer to the Sun than any previous spacecraft and through the solar corona itself.

    One instrument, called the Energetic Particle Instrument-Hi (EPI-Hi), will investigate the mysteries of high-speed solar particles that hurtle toward Earth at close to the speed of light.

    NASA Parker Solar Probe Energetic Particle Instrument-Hi (EPI-Hi) Caltech

    Observations by the Parker Solar Probe will lead to better predictions of space weather and address fundamental mysteries about the Sun’s dynamic corona. EPI-Hi is part of the Integrated Science Investigation of the Sun, led by Principal Investigator David McComas of Princeton University in New Jersey.

    This animation shows Parker Solar Probe flying through the solar corona and coronal mass ejections. The fields of view of the two WISPR telescopes are defined by the pyramid-shaped rays coming from WISPR instrument.

    When approaching the Sun, the spacecraft flies such that its heat shield is always facing the Sun to protect the instruments and spacecraft from the intense solar radiation. As it gets closer to the Sun, the solar panels are folded back behind the shield so that only the tips are exposed to sunlight. The animation also shows how WISPR uses the heat shield to block out the direct sunlight so it can view the corona, which is seen in reflected sunlight.

    “We will be exploring a region of space that has never before been visited,” said Mark Wiedenbeck, the lead investigator on the EPI-Hi instrument and a principal research scientist at JPL. “We have ideas about what will be found, but the most important results may well come from observations that are completely unexpected.”

    Of particular interest to the EPI-Hi team is the unsolved riddle of how a small fraction of the charged particles from the Sun reach near-light speeds. These particles, protons, electrons and heavy ions can reach Earth in less than an hour, creating space weather hazards to humans and hardware in space. Until now, scientists had been observing from a distance the effects of what is happening near the Sun. With the Parker Solar Probe now on its way to fly through the region where it is happening, scientists are confident they will obtain new clues and insight into the process.

    The EPI-Hi instrument consists of stacks of silicon detectors designed to snag high-speed particles and measure their energies. Some of the detectors are very thin, with the thinnest being about one-eighth the thickness of a standard sheet of paper. For the detectors to make the required measurements, the thickness of these detectors could vary by no more than one-hundredth the thickness of a sheet of paper.

    Another instrument on Parker Solar Probe — the Wide-Field Imager for Solar Probe Plus (WISPR) – is the only camera aboard the spacecraft.

    The WISPR Instrument Module (WIM) and its subassemblies annotated schematic. Two telescopes cover the WISPR FOV: the Inner and Outer telescope. Three baffle systems (Forward, Interior, and Aperture Hood) provide stray light control. The CIE controls the two APS detectors. The Door Latch release is the only WISPR mechanism. The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory.

    It will take images of the Sun’s corona and inner heliosphere. The imager has two telescopes that will capture images of the solar wind, shock waves and other coronal structures as they approach and pass the spacecraft.WISPR provides a very wide field-of-view, extending from 13 degrees away from the center of the Sun to 108 degrees away.

    “If you saw the solar eclipse last August, you saw the Sun’s corona. That is our destination. WISPR will be taking images of the corona as it flies through it. The images will help us understand the morphology, velocity, acceleration and density of evolving solar wind structures when they are close to the Sun,” said JPL scientist Paulett Liewer, a member of the WISPR Science Team. The WISPR principal investigator is Russell Howard of the Naval Research Laboratory.

    In leading Parker’s navigation efforts, JPL is helping to implement the mission’s innovative trajectory, developed by the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Maryland, which built and operates the spacecraft for NASA. The Parker Solar Probe will use seven Venus flybys over nearly seven years to gradually shrink its orbit around the Sun, coming as close as 3.83 million miles (6.16 million kilometers) to the Sun, well within the orbit of Mercury and about seven times closer to the Sun than any spacecraft before.

    In addition, the Parker Solar Probe Observatory Scientist, Principal Investigator Marco Velli, a UCLA professor, holds a part-time appointment as Heliophysics Liaison to NASA at JPL.

    The Parker Solar Probe lifted off on Aug. 12, 2018, on a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket from Space Launch Complex-37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The mission’s findings will help researchers improve their forecasts of space weather events, which have the potential to damage satellites and harm astronauts on orbit, disrupt radio communications and, at their most severe, overwhelm power grids.

    EPI-Hi is managed for NASA by Caltech in collaboration with JPL, which is a division of Caltech. The Parker Solar Probe is part of NASA’s Living with a Star Program, or LWS, to explore aspects of the Sun-Earth system that directly affect life and society. LWS is managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, for the Heliophysics Division of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory manages the Parker Solar Probe mission for NASA.

    More information on Parker Solar Probe is available at:



    See the full article here .


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    NASA JPL Campus

    Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is a federally funded research and development center and NASA field center located in the San Gabriel Valley area of Los Angeles County, California, United States. Although the facility has a Pasadena postal address, it is actually headquartered in the city of La Cañada Flintridge, on the northwest border of Pasadena. JPL is managed by the nearby California Institute of Technology (Caltech) for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The Laboratory’s primary function is the construction and operation of robotic planetary spacecraft, though it also conducts Earth-orbit and astronomy missions. It is also responsible for operating NASA’s Deep Space Network.

    Caltech Logo

    NASA image

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