Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

NASA Spacecraft Provides New Information About Sun’s Atmosphere

17.10.2014

NASA's Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph (IRIS) has provided scientists with five new findings into how the sun’s atmosphere, or corona, is heated far hotter than its surface, what causes the sun’s constant outflow of particles called the solar wind, and what mechanisms accelerate particles that power solar flares.

The new information will help researchers better understand how our nearest star transfers energy through its atmosphere and track the dynamic solar activity that can impact technological infrastructure in space and on Earth. Details of the findings appear in the current edition of Science.


NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory provided the outer image of a coronal mass ejection on May 9, 2014. The IRIS spacecraft. The IRIS mission views the interface region that lies between the sun’s photosphere and corona in unprecedented detail for researchers to study.

Image Credit: NASA, Lockheed Martin Solar & Astrophysics Laboratory

 "These findings reveal a region of the sun more complicated than previously thought," said Jeff Newmark, interim director for the Heliophysics Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "Combining IRIS data with observations from other Heliophysics missions is enabling breakthroughs in our understanding of the sun and its interactions with the solar system."

The first result identified heat pockets of 200,000 degrees Fahrenheit, lower in the solar atmosphere than ever observed by previous spacecraft. Scientists refer to the pockets as solar heat bombs because of the amount of energy they release in such a short time. Identifying such sources of unexpected heat can offer deeper understanding of the heating mechanisms throughout the solar atmosphere.

For its second finding, IRIS observed numerous, small, low lying loops of solar material in the interface region for the first time. The unprecedented resolution provided by IRIS will enable scientists to better understand how the solar atmosphere is energized.

A surprise to researchers was the third finding of IRIS observations showing structures resembling mini-tornadoes occurring in solar active regions for the first time. These tornadoes move at speeds as fast as 12 miles per second and are scattered throughout the chromosphere, or the layer of the sun in the interface region just above the surface.  These tornados provide a mechanism for transferring energy to power the million-degree temperatures in the corona.

Another finding uncovers evidence of high-speed jets at the root of the solar wind.  The jets are fountains of plasma that shoot out of coronal holes, areas of less dense material in the solar atmosphere and are typically thought to be a source of the solar wind.

The final result highlights the effects of nanoflares throughout the corona. Large solar flares are initiated by a mechanism called magnetic reconnection, whereby magnetic field lines cross and explosively realign. These often send particles out into space at nearly the speed of light. Nanoflares are smaller versions that have long been thought to drive coronal heating. IRIS observations show high energy particles generated by individual nanoflare events impacting the chromosphere for the first time.      

"This research really delivers on the promise of IRIS, which has been looking at a region of the sun with a level of detail that has never been done before," said De Pontieu, IRIS science lead at Lockheed Martin in Palo Alto, California. "The results focus on a lot of things that have been puzzling for a long time and they also offer some complete surprises."

IRIS is a Small Explorer mission managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, in Greenbelt, Maryland for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters. NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, provides mission operations and ground data systems. The Norwegian Space Centre is providing regular downlinks of science data. Lockheed Martin designed the IRIS observatory and manages the mission for NASA. The Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, built the telescope. Montana State University in Bozeman designed the spectrograph. Other contributors for this mission include the University of Oslo and Stanford University in Stanford, California.

For more information about IRIS, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/iris

Dwayne Brown
Headquarters, Washington
202-358-1726
dwayne.c.brown@nasa.gov

Susan Hendrix | Eurek Alert!

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Enhancing the quantum sensing capabilities of diamond
23.11.2017 | The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

nachricht Quantum optics allows us to abandon expensive lasers in spectroscopy
22.11.2017 | Lomonosov Moscow State University

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Frictional Heat Powers Hydrothermal Activity on Enceladus

Computer simulation shows how the icy moon heats water in a porous rock core

Heat from the friction of rocks caused by tidal forces could be the “engine” for the hydrothermal activity on Saturn's moon Enceladus. This presupposes that...

Im Focus: Nanoparticles help with malaria diagnosis – new rapid test in development

The WHO reports an estimated 429,000 malaria deaths each year. The disease mostly affects tropical and subtropical regions and in particular the African continent. The Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC teamed up with the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME and the Institute of Tropical Medicine at the University of Tübingen for a new test method to detect malaria parasites in blood. The idea of the research project “NanoFRET” is to develop a highly sensitive and reliable rapid diagnostic test so that patient treatment can begin as early as possible.

Malaria is caused by parasites transmitted by mosquito bite. The most dangerous form of malaria is malaria tropica. Left untreated, it is fatal in most cases....

Im Focus: A “cosmic snake” reveals the structure of remote galaxies

The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.

Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...

Im Focus: Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ

Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.

That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...

Im Focus: Novel Nano-CT device creates high-resolution 3D-X-rays of tiny velvet worm legs

Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.

During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Ecology Across Borders: International conference brings together 1,500 ecologists

15.11.2017 | Event News

Road into laboratory: Users discuss biaxial fatigue-testing for car and truck wheel

15.11.2017 | Event News

#Berlin5GWeek: The right network for Industry 4.0

30.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Underwater acoustic localization of marine mammals and vehicles

23.11.2017 | Information Technology

Enhancing the quantum sensing capabilities of diamond

23.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Meadows beat out shrubs when it comes to storing carbon

23.11.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>