The Sun connects with all the planets via the solar wind, a flow of electrically charged particles that constantly 'blows' off the Sun and creates 'space weather'. Space weather interactions can affect and erode the atmospheres of Earth and other planets, and, when channelled through a planetary magnetic field, create beautiful aurorae. Until now, physicists have been principally concerned with the way the solar wind interacts with Earth, the so-called Sun-Earth connection. Now it is time to think bigger.
"Fifty years ago the International Geophysical Year marked the starting point to see Earth in space. Now with the IHY we are on the threshold of being able to investigate the interconnectivity of the whole Solar System," says Hermann Opgenoorth, ESA Head of Solar System Missions Division.
At the forefront of this effort is a fleet of ESA spacecraft. "ESA's heliophysics space missions – in particular SOHO, Ulysses and Cluster – are key members of a network of spacecraft providing data for such studies," says Richard Marsden, ESA's Ulysses Mission Manager and Project Scientist.
These missions study various aspects of the Sun-Earth connection. SOHO stands guard, watching the Sun for any sign of violent magnetic activity that could hurl a barrage of electrically charged gas at Earth. Cluster orbits the Earth and studies the way this gas, known as plasma, interacts with the Earth's magnetic field.
The ESA-NASA Ulysses spacecraft has now been in space for nearly 20 years. It is currently directly beneath the Sun's south pole, completing its third looping passage around our central star. Ulysses is returning some surprising results on the complete solar cycle that are currently being analysed.
It is not only these missions that are contributing data to the IHY effort. ESA also has special plasma instruments on Mars Express, Venus Express and on Cassini, the joint NASA mission to Saturn. These instruments all study the way the solar wind interacts with those planets. "This is the first time in history we have such a Solar System fleet at our disposal," says Hermann Opgenoorth.
"As well as stimulating scientific collaborations, IHY also aims to raise public awareness of the importance of the Sun-Earth connection," says Marsden. In particular, on 10 June 2007, 27 scientific establishments (24 across Europe, two in India and one in Mexico) will open their doors to the public in order to inform people about the importance of the Sun's influence on Earth.
"When people hear the word astronomy, I believe only five percent think of the Sun-Earth connection. Through IHY, I would like to raise that to at least ten percent," says Carine Briand, Observatoire de Paris à Meudon, and the co-chair of the European coordinating committee for IHY.
IHY is just one, yearlong campaign within a decade-long initiative called International Living With a Star (ILWS). ESA and NASA are joint partners in ILWS (which consists of a total of 27 space agencies around the world). In this framework discussions have recently started to evaluate a joint venture of ESA's Solar Orbiter and NASA's Solar Sentinels. If successful this move will share the expertise that both sides have developed and build a stronger coordinated multi-spacecraft mission, to both study and monitor space weather conditions anywhere around the Sun.
Bernhard Fleck | alfa
APEX takes a glimpse into the heart of darkness
25.05.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie
First chip-scale broadband optical system that can sense molecules in the mid-IR
24.05.2018 | Columbia University School of Engineering and Applied Science
The more electronics steer, accelerate and brake cars, the more important it is to protect them against cyber-attacks. That is why 15 partners from industry and academia will work together over the next three years on new approaches to IT security in self-driving cars. The joint project goes by the name Security For Connected, Autonomous Cars (SecForCARs) and has funding of €7.2 million from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Infineon is leading the project.
Vehicles already offer diverse communication interfaces and more and more automated functions, such as distance and lane-keeping assist systems. At the same...
A research team led by physicists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has developed molecular nanoswitches that can be toggled between two structurally different states using an applied voltage. They can serve as the basis for a pioneering class of devices that could replace silicon-based components with organic molecules.
The development of new electronic technologies drives the incessant reduction of functional component sizes. In the context of an international collaborative...
At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.
At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...
There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?
At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...
So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics
Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...
25.05.2018 | Event News
02.05.2018 | Event News
13.04.2018 | Event News
25.05.2018 | Event News
25.05.2018 | Machine Engineering
25.05.2018 | Life Sciences