Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Our Sun's fiery outbursts – seen in 3D

19.07.2006
UK solar scientists are eagerly awaiting the launch of NASA's STEREO mission which will provide the first ever 3D views of the Sun. STEREO (Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory) comprises two nearly identical observatories that will orbit the Sun to monitor its violent outbursts – Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs) – and the 'space weather' it creates that can impact the Earth, satellites and astronauts. STEREO is due for launch on August 1st 2006.

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."

Julia Maddock | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.pparc.ac.uk

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Applicability of dynamic facilitation theory to binary hard disk systems
08.12.2016 | Nagoya Institute of Technology

nachricht Will Earth still exist 5 billion years from now?
08.12.2016 | KU Leuven

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: Significantly more productivity in USP lasers

In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.

Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Closing the carbon loop

08.12.2016 | Life Sciences

Applicability of dynamic facilitation theory to binary hard disk systems

08.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

Scientists track chemical and structural evolution of catalytic nanoparticles in 3-D

08.12.2016 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>