Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Solar-B

13.09.2006
Probing the most energetic explosions in the solar system

Solar flares are tremendous explosions on the surface of our Sun, releasing as much energy as a billion megatons of TNT in the form of radiation, high energy particles and magnetic fields. The Sun's magnetic fields are known to be an extremely important factor in producing the energy for flaring and when these magnetic fields lines clash together, dragging hot gas with them, an enormous maelstrom of energy is released.

This boiling cauldron of plasma is ejected at huge speeds into the solar system and high energy particles, such as protons, can arrive at Earth within tens of minutes, to be followed a few days later by Coronal Mass Ejections, huge bubbles of gas threaded with magnetic field lines, which can cause major magnetic disturbances on Earth, sometimes with catastrophic results. Whilst scientists understand the flaring process very well they cannot predict when one of these enormous explosions will occur. The Solar-B mission, designed and built by teams in the UK, US and Japan, will investigate the so called 'trigger phase' of these events.

"Solar flares are fast and furious – they can cause communication black-outs at Earth within 30 minutes of a flare erupting on the Sun's surface. It's imperative that we understand what triggers these events with the ultimate aim of being able to predict them with greater accuracy" said Prof. Louise Harra, the UK Solar-B project scientist based at University College London's Mullard Space Science Laboratory [UCL/MSSL].

Solar-B will measure the movement of magnetic fields and how the Sun's atmosphere responds to these movements. Since the Sun is constantly changing on small timescales Solar-B will be able to distinguish between steady movements and the changes that will build-up to a flare.

The spacecraft will be launched on the 22nd September 22:00 UT from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) Uchinoura Space Centre at Uchinoura Kagoshima in southern Japan. Solar-B will be launched into a Sun-synchronous orbit allowing uninterrupted viewing.

"The Sun behaves unpredictably and will be as likely to flare during spacecraft 'night' when Solar-B would be behind the Earth, which is why we have chosen a special type of polar orbit that will give us continuous coverage of the Sun for more than 9 months of the year," said Prof. Len Culhane from UCL/MSSL, Principal Investigator of the Extreme Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrometer [EIS] instrument on Solar-B.

Solar-B carries three instruments which have been designed to explore the critical trigger phase of solar flares. The UK (UCL/MSSL) led EIS instrument, an extremely lightweight 3-metre long telescope, will measure the dynamical behaviour of the Sun's atmosphere to a higher accuracy than ever before, allowing measurement of small-scale changes occurring during the critical build-up to a flare.

"In order to make the EIS as light as possible we used the same type of carbon fibre structure, from McClaren Composites, that is used to build racing cars, although being in space will subject the material to many more demands than the average racing car" said Dr Ady James, EIS Instrument Project Manager at UCL/MSSL.

The EIS instrument is complemented by optical and X-ray telescopes and all three instruments will help solve the long-standing controversies on coronal heating and dynamics.

"Solar-B will give us an increased understanding of the mechanisms which give rise to solar magnetic variability and how this variability modulates the total solar output and creates the driving force behind space weather," said Prof. Keith Mason, CEO of the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council [PPARC], the funding agency behind UK involvement in the spacecraft. Prof. Mason added, "Predicting the timing and strength of solar flares is critical if we want to mitigate the threat to orbiting spacecraft and Earth-based communication systems".

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

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: New proton record: Researchers measure magnetic moment with greatest possible precision

High-precision measurement of the g-factor eleven times more precise than before / Results indicate a strong similarity between protons and antiprotons

The magnetic moment of an individual proton is inconceivably small, but can still be quantified. The basis for undertaking this measurement was laid over ten...

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...

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

IceCube experiment finds Earth can block high-energy particles from nuclear reactions

24.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A 'half-hearted' solution to one-sided heart failure

24.11.2017 | Health and Medicine

Heidelberg Researchers Study Unique Underwater Stalactites

24.11.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>