Professor Richard Harrison of the CCLRC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL), part of the UK team working on STEREO said “Whilst our Sun may seem a calm familiar object in the sky, in reality it is rather more manic! It generates constantly changing knots of magnetic fields that twist and churn and, occasionally, snap like an over-stretched rubber band producing CME outbursts. At the moment, we cannot recognise the tell-tale signals that precede an outburst, but we expect STEREO will change that.”
In order to understand and, most importantly, predict and protect against the effects of the Sun’s outbursts, such as CMEs, we need to monitor our parent star very closely. CMEs are powerful eruptions that can blow up to 10 billion tonnes of material from the Sun’s atmosphere into space. Typically, CMEs send about 1 billion tonnes of material into space, travelling at one million miles per hour. They can create major disturbances in the interplanetary medium (the dust, plasma and gas in the space between the planets) and if they reach Earth, trigger severe magnetic storms that affect satellites, communications, power grids and aircraft. CME-driven shocks also play a significant role in accelerating solar energetic particles that can damage spacecraft and harm astronauts. Despite their significance, scientists don’t fully understand the origin and evolution of CMEs yet.
Dr Chris Davis, also of RAL, said “Understanding CMEs is key to the future of human activities in space, including the many activities in daily life that rely on communication and navigation satellites. As satellite technology becomes more miniaturised, the smaller microchips are actually more vulnerable to “killer electrons” – the very energetic particles that a CME shock can produce.”
STEREO will provide key data on CMEs and will be the first mission to watch CMEs directly as they head towards the Earth (which can happen as frequently as 4 times a week during the active phase of the Sun’s cycle). STEREO comprises two nearly identical observatories that will be placed in orbits almost the same as that of the Earth around the Sun (their orbits will be 346 and 388 days).
Dr Chris Eyles of the University of Birmingam said “One spacecraft will slowly move ahead of the Earth, the other lag behind - the resulting offset will allow the two spacecraft to have ‘depth perception’ and give them stereo vision such as humans have.”
UK scientists and engineers have contributed to STEREO by building the HI (Heliospheric Imager) cameras for the SECCHI (see Notes below) package on each observatory. HI is a wide angled imaging system (meaning it has a broad field of view) and will be studying how CMEs propagate, particularly those that are likely to affect the Earth. HI was funded by the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council investment of £1.88million. CCLRC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory is responsible for the scientific exploitation of the heliospheric imagers as well as providing the detectors used in all of STEREO's camera systems. Both heliospheric imagers were built in the UK at the University of Birmingham.
Commenting on the mission objectives, PPARC’s CEO Professor Keith Mason said “Predicting the timing and strength of solar eruptions is clearly important if we want to mitigate the threat of CMEs and STEREO’s twin observatories will be our sentinels, providing a unique insight into the evolution of these huge outbursts.”
Professor Mason added “The UK has a strong history in solar physics and STEREO builds on the legacy of extremely successful satellites such as YOHKOH and SOHO, which have changed our understanding of the Earth’s parent star. The STEREO mission is a prime example of how we can make the most of British expertise by joining with international agencies such as NASA.”
Jill Little | alfa
Space radiation won't stop NASA's human exploration
18.10.2017 | NASA/Johnson Space Center
Study shows how water could have flowed on 'cold and icy' ancient Mars
18.10.2017 | Brown University
University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event
On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...
Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.
Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....
Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).
When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...
Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.
How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...
Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.
It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...
17.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
18.10.2017 | Materials Sciences
18.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
18.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy