Tag Archives: sun

Solar Dynamics Observatory Releases Highlights From Year Four

NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) is designed to monitor the entire disc of the sun, 24 hours a day. It is capable of detecting 10 different wavelengths in order capture all of the sun’s activity in order to learn more about the generation and structure of the magnetic field and how the magnetic energy manifests into the solar activity that causes different kinds of space weather, such as solar wind.

SDO was launched from Cape Canaveral on the morning of February 11, 2010. In honor of its fourth year in space, the scientists working at the Goddard Space Flight Center have made a compilation of some of the biggest sunspots and the most massive explosions from the solar surface over the past year. One of the sunspots featured was imaged just about a month ago and is one of the largest in the past decade. 

If you would like to know more about each of the clips used in the video, Goddard has released a helpful viewing guide so you can learn more.

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/space/solar-dynamics-observatory-releases-highlights-year-four

Canyon Of Fire On The Sun Is Glorious

Canyon Of Fire On The Sun Is Glorious

The official NASA YouTube channel published this awe-inspiring video of a solar eruption last month. 

A 200,000 mile long magnetic filament exploded from the sun’s atmosphere, leaving behind an apparent canyon of fire. The new video is going viral with over 150,000 views so far.


Read more: http://www.viralviralvideos.com/2013/10/25/canyon-of-fire-on-the-sun-is-glorious/

Rebooted NASA Spacecraft Begins a New Mission 36 Years After Launch


Artist’s concept image of ISEE-3 (ICE) spacecraft.
Image: NASA

A 36-year-old NASA spacecraft began a new interplanetary science mission on Sunday when it made a close pass by the moon.

The privately controlled International Sun-Earth Explorer 3 spacecraft, also called ISEE-3, flew by the moon at approximately 2:16 p.m. EDT.

The ISEE-3 spacecraft is under the control of the ISEE-3 Reboot Project, a private team of engineers who took control of the probe earlier this year under an agreement with NASA. The team initially hoped to move the NASA probe into a stable orbit near the Earth. But attempts failed when the team discovered that the spacecraft, which NASA launched in 1978, was out of the nitrogen pressurant needed to get the job done.

Now, ISEE-3 Reboot Project engineers are focusing their efforts on an interplanetary science mission, since at least some of the probe’s 13 instruments are still working. By using a network of individual radio dishes across the world, the team will listen to the ISEE-3 spacecraft for most of its orbit around the sun.

Officials announced this week that they would collaborate with Google to offer live spacecraft data at the site SpacecraftForAll.com. Financial terms were not disclosed. Chris Lintott, of the BBC’s “The Sky at Night,” moderated a Google Hangout on ISEE-3.

“The main feature of this is a new website developed by Google Creative Lab in collaboration with the ISEE-3 Reboot Project team that features a history of the ISEE-3 mission as well as a presentation of data currently being received from ISEE-3,” co-founder Keith Cowing said in a statement.

The spacecraft was originally launched in 1978 to study the sun, and was retasked for other science missions such as looking at comets. NASA put ISEE-3 into hibernation in 1998, where it remained until the private group reactivated it this year under a Space Act Agreement.

Members raised about $160,000 through crowdfunding, most of which is gone due to the need to rent dish time at NASA’s Deep Space Network to listen in, and to fly team members to the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico for communications.

To learn more about the ISEE-3 Reboot Project, visit: http://spacecollege.org/.

This article originally published at Space.com

Read more: http://mashable.com/2014/08/11/isee-3-buzzes-moon/

Incredible Video Captures Magical-Looking Sun Storm


The sun fired off a spectacular eruption last weekend, and a NASA spacecraft captured amazing video of the violent solar outburst.

A super-hot solar filament erupted in grand style Saturday (Aug. 4), arcing into space and connecting two huge sunspots. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) spacecraft had a front-row seat for the action, and its video footage of the sun eruption is both bizarre and beautiful.

The filament appears pinkish-purple through SDO’s ultraviolet filters, and it stands out against a solar surface of mottled green, yellow and dark purple hues.

The tendril’s hot plasma snakes between the sunspots AR 1538 and AR 1540. Sunspots are temporary blotches on the sun that appear dark because they’re cooler than the rest of the solar surface. Solar flares and massive blasts of plasma called coronal mass ejections (CMEs) often erupt from sunspots, which can be many times larger than the Earth’s diameter.

The Aug. 4 outburst also propelled an enormous CME into space. CMEs that hit Earth directly can wreak havoc, temporarily disrupting GPS communications, satellite navigation and power grids. But Saturday’s solar storm shouldn’t pose any serious problems, scientists said.

“The cloud is not heading directly toward Earth, but it could deliver a glancing blow to our planet’s magnetic field on August 7/8,” the website Spaceweather.com wrote. “High-latitude skywatchers should be alert for auroras on those dates.”

The sun is currently in an active phase of its 11-year solar cycle, and it should continue to fire off big storms for a while yet. Experts expect the current cycle, known as Solar Cycle 24, to peak in 2013.

The $850 million SDO spacecraft, which launched in February 2010, is the first in a fleet of NASA efforts to study our sun. The probe’s five-year mission is the cornerstone of a NASA science program called Living with a Star, which aims to help scientists better understand aspects of the sun-Earth system that affect our lives and society.

This article originally published at Space.com

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/08/10/video-sun-storm/

Newly Discovered “Blast Waves” Found In The Suns Atmosphere

Research teams in the U.S. and Germany have independently discovered a new form of solar ejection that they believe could be responsible for accelerated particle emissions from the Sun. These unusual emissions hadbeen spotted before, but until now, their origins remained unclear.

The American team is led byNariaki Nitta from the Lockheed Martin Advanced Technology Center, while the German one is led by Radoslav Buk from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS). The German team has published their results in The Astrophysical Journal.

The Sun has an active surface with an intensity that varies on an 11-yearcycle. A particularly spectacular phenomenon is the coronal mass ejection, a disruptive magnetic interaction that propels plasma into interplanetary space, often seen in conjunction with solar flares sudden flashes of brightness observed near sunspots. The newly discovered type of ejection, called blast waves, seemto be independent of these well-known events.

“The new phenomenon is like a kind of explosion,” said Dr. Buk, who headed the team of researchers at the MPS, in a statement. It was seen in data from January26 through February2, 2010. It was discovered and tracked by looking at the Suns atmosphere in extreme ultraviolet light. The scientists observed a weak X-ray flash followed by a large wave that extended for at least 500,000 kilometers (310,000 miles) and moved with a speed of 300 kilometers (190 miles) per second. These waves are believed to be the underlying cause of an observed emission of helium-3 particles, a special isotope of helium,from the blast wave location.

Due to the Sun’s rotation on its axis, particles get thrown into space on a curved trajectory. To find a connection between blast waves and helium-3, the scientists needed a 360-degree observation of our star.

STEREO A UV observation of the Sun when the blast wave happened. Credit:NASA/STEREO A/MPS/AAS

This result was possible by using two spacecraft STEREO A and ACE simultaneously. The Advanced Composition Explorer, or ACE, studies the solar wind, while STEREO A (Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory) is one of the two twin probes launched to provide stereoscopic imaging of the Sun and solar phenomena. We lost communication with STEREO-B last year. STEREO A travels independently around the Sun, slightly faster than Earth (347 days), while ACE orbits near the Earth. In 2010, they were at the right position around our star to detect the flow of particles as well as its cause. It will take 10 years before the probes will have the same favorable position again.

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/space/blast-waves-discovered-sun-s-atmosphere

NASA Uses Photo Filters to Enhance, Study Pics of the Sun


Gradient filters to boost contrast in photos aren’t just for photographers anymore. Astronomers are using them to take a better look at our sun, too.

NASA scientists say they can apply the photo-editing technique to enhance places of contrast around the sun, making its explosive plasma loops not only more stunning, but also easier to study.

A new video of the sun from the Solar Dynamics Observatory shows coronal loops bursting from the sun. These huge arcs of solar material, which are constrained by magnetic fields, can swirl slowly on the edge of the sun for hours, sometimes even days.

Scientists at the observatory carefully adjusted gradient algorithms to make these coronal loops appear much more defined in the new video, NASA officials said in a statement Thursday. The loops — highlighted in orange and red — pop out next to the more fuzzy areas in the sun’s atmosphere.

Sharp observations of plasma loops can help astronomers understand the sun’s complicated magnetic fields, according to NASA. And coronal loops are of particular interest to scientists because they may be the root of explosive solar flares that can wreak havoc on satellites in space and power grids on Earth.

The sun is currently going through an active phase of its 11-year solar weather cycle and is expected to reach its peak activity in 2013. The current sun weather cycle is known as Solar Cycle 24.

The Solar Dynamics Observatory has been recording high-definition images and video of the sun since its launch in 2010.

This article originally published at Space.com

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/10/22/nasa-uses-photo-filters-to-enhance-sun-video/

Watch NASA Launch New Sun-Watching Probe Tonight


NASA will launch its newest solar observatory tonight, kicking off a two-year mission to study how energy moves around the active sun.

A rocket carrying the Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph satellite, or IRIS, is scheduled to take off from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base at 9:27 p.m. EDT tonight underneath a carrier aircraft. The plane will release its payload high above the Pacific Ocean one hour later, at which point the rocket will kick on and blast IRIS into orbit.

You can watch NASA’s IRIS solar observatory launch live on SPACE.com courtesy of a NASA webcast. The webcast begins at 9 p.m. EST and the space agency’s NASA TV channels will beam it out in real time.

Scientists hope IRIS helps them solve some puzzling solar mysteries, such as why the sun’s surface is so much cooler than its outer atmosphere, or corona.

“What we want to discover is what the basic physical processes are that transfer energy and material from the surface of the sun out to the outer atmosphere, to the corona,” IRIS Principal Investigator Alan Title, a physicist at Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Technology Center Solar and Astrophysics Laboratory in Palo Alto, Calif., told reporters earlier this month.

“And remember, the corona extends throughout the heliosphere,” Title added, referring to the huge bubble of charged particles the sun puffs out around itself. “We live in the sun’s outer atmosphere.”

A New View of the Sun

IRIS is part of NASA’s Small Explorer program, which mounts missions for $120 million or less. The spacecraft is small, measuring just seven feet long by 12 feet wide (2.1 by 3.7 meters) with its solar panels deployed.

IRIS will launch to Earth orbit tonight aboard a Pegasus XL rocket, which is made by Virginia-based aerospace firm Orbital Sciences. A L-1011 carrier aircraft will drop the Pegasus at 10:27 p.m. EST. At that point, the rocket and spacecraft will be 39,000 feet (11,900 meters) above the Pacific Ocean about 100 miles (160 kilometers) northwest of Vandenberg, NASA officials said.

Once in orbit, IRIS will peer in ultraviolet light at a sliver of the sun between the solar surface and corona. A better knowledge of this interface region, which is just 3,000 to 6,000 miles (4,800 to 9,600 kilometers) wide, could shed light on why temperatures jump from 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit (5,500 degrees Celsius) at the sun’s surface to several million degrees in the corona, researchers said.

While other NASA spacecrafts — like the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) — look at the entire solar disk, IRIS will focus on just 1% of the sun at a time, mission team members said.

“IRIS almost acts as a microscope to SDO’s telescope,” Jim Hall, IRIS mission manager for the Launch Services Program at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida,said in a statement. “It’s going to look in closely, and it’s going to look at that specific [interface] region to see how the changes in matter and energy occur in this region. It’s going to collectively bring us a more complete view of the sun.”

Launch Delay

IRIS was originally slated to launch Wednesday (June 26), but a power outage across much of California’s central coast on Sunday, June 23 knocked out some key components of Vandenberg’s tracking and telemetry systems, causing a one-day delay.

While IRIS team members would have preferred to get off the ground on time, they said the delay was oddly appropriate in a way.

“We believe that some — maybe a lot — of power outages actually have a lot to do with solar activity. So the better we can understand the physics going on, the better we can understand the activity, the better that we can potentially predict and mitigate some of these problems,” said Pete Worden, director of NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., which is responsible for IRIS mission operations and ground data systems.

“So it was sort of, in some sense, unfortunate to delay the launch, but it’s also fortuitous to highlight the importance of this mission,” Worden told reporters Tuesday, June 24.

Image courtesy of NASA

This article originally published at Space.com

Read more: http://mashable.com/2013/06/27/nasa-sun-watching-probe/

NASA Video Captures Giant Sun Eruption


The sun unleashed a monster eruption of super-hot plasma on Nov. 16 in back-to-back solar storms captured on camera by a NASA spacecraft.

The giant sun eruption, called a solar prominence, occurred at 1 a.m. EST (0600 GMT), with another event flaring up four hours later. The prominences was so large, it expanded beyond the camera view of NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), which captured high-definition video of the solar eruption.

In the video, a colossal loop of glowing red plasma erupts from the lower left of the sun, arcing up and out of frame as it blasts away from the star.

“The red-glowing looped material is plasma, a hot gas made of electrically charged hydrogen and helium,” officials with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, which oversees the SDO mission, explained in a description. “The prominence plasma flows along a tangled and twisted structure of magnetic fields generated by the sun’s internal dynamo. An erupting prominence occurs when such a structure becomes unstable and bursts outward, releasing the plasma.”

Friday’s solar eruption does not appear to be aimed at Earth, so will likely have little effect on our planet. But that was not the case earlier this week when a powerful solar flare erupted on Monday (Nov. 12). That flare registered as an M6-class eruption, a moderate but still intense solar event.

On Tuesday and Wednesday of last week, space weather conditions sparked a geomagnetic storm that supercharged the Earth’s auroras, creating spectacular northern lights displays for observers at high latitudes.

When aimed directly at Earth, the most powerful solar flares and eruptions can pose a threat to satellites and astronauts in orbit, and also interfere with communication, navigation and power systems on the ground.

The sun is currently in the middle of an active phase of its 11-year solar weather cycle. The current cycle is called Solar Cycle 24 and is expected to peak in 2013.

This article originally published at Space.com

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/11/19/nasa-sun-eruption-video/

These Award-Winning Images Capture The Awesomeness of Science And Nature

The winners of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’sannual Cool Science Image contest have just been chosen, placing the spotlight on some of the most stunning natural phenomena that escape our gaze on a regular basis. Open to the university’s faculty and students, the winners include 10 images and two videos, covering the full spectrum of scientific disciplines, from microbiology to astronomy.

Chosen for their scientific value and aesthetic beauty, the victorious entries were captured by both undergraduate and graduate students, as well as staff members. Praising the incredible quality of the winning images, contest judge Kevin Eliceiri said they represent not only the great research of UWMadison but remind us of the great creativity and artistic eye so many of our scientists have.

Here’s a selction of the winning entries. You can view all the winners here.

Wei-hua Lee

Postdoctoral fellow Wei-hua Lee created this image using a technique called immunostaining to mark antibodies and proteins involved in an immune response in human tissue.

Sarah Swanson

Botany department staff member Sarah Swansons environmental scanning electron micrograph of the hypostome or mouth of a tick was selected as one of the winning entries.

Scott Bachmeier

This satellite video of a massive storm system moving across the Atlantic was captured by Scott Bachmeier from the Space Science and Engineering Center.

Garrett Frankson

Using nothing more than a basic pinhole camera, physics and astronomy undergraduate Garrett Frankson traced the Suns transitions across the sky from solstice to solstice.

Ethan Heyrman

Captured in September 2015, undergraduate Ethan Heyrmans image shows the incredible result of a coincidence of a super moon and a total lunar eclipse. The Moon appears blood red because the light falling on it has been refracted through the Earths shadow, shifting it towards the long wavelength end of the spectrum.

Photo Gallery

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/editors-blog/these-award-winning-images-capture-awesomeness-science-and-nature

NASA Spies Jack-o’-Lantern Face In The Sun

Bright, active regions on the sun have combined to look something like Jack Skellington‘s face on October 8. These spooky facial features are areas that emit more light and energy — the markers of intense magnetic activity hovering in the sun’s atmosphere, or the corona.

When we look at the sun in standard camera photos or with the naked eye (not recommended), we typically see a yellowish disk; sometimes it looks reddish if it’s near the horizon. The sun actually emits light in all colors, but since yellow is the brightest, that’s what we see. Ground and space-based telescopes can observe light in many different wavelengths far beyond the ranges visible to us. Starting from the sun’s surface on out, the wavelengths observed by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) range from 4500 to 131 angstroms — from the surface (or photosphere) all the way to the hottest material in a flare.

The ghostly grin pictured above is a composite that blends together images captured by SDO of two sets of wavelengths at 171 and 193 angstroms, which are typically colored as gold and yellow. A wavelength of 171 angstroms shows the corona when it’s quiet, as well as giant magnetic arcs called coronal loops. A wavelength of 193 shows a slighter hotter region of the corona and much hotter material of a solar flare. You can see the individual images here.

Below, the sun is imaged on the same day in 304 angstrom extreme ultraviolet light. Light at this wavelength is emitted from a layer of the sun’s atmosphere called the chromosphere (just above the photosphere) and the transition region where the temperature rapidly rises:

And here again in 335 angstrom extreme ultraviolet light. This wavelength shows hotter, magnetically active regions in the corona: 

Images: NASA/GSFC/SDO (top), NASA/SDO (middle, bottom) via NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

Photo Gallery

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/space/nasa-spies-jack-o-lantern-sun