Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Sounding Rocket Mission to Observe Magnetic Fields on the Sun

03.07.2012
On July 5, NASA will launch a mission called the Solar Ultraviolet Magnetograph Investigation or SUMI, to study the intricate, constantly changing magnetic fields on the sun in a hard-to-observe area of the sun's low atmosphere called the chromosphere.

Magnetic fields, and the intense magnetic energy they help marshal, lie at the heart of how the sun can create huge explosions of light such as solar flares and eruptions of particles such as coronal mass ejections (CMEs). While there are already instruments – both on the ground and flying in space – that can measure these fields, each is constrained to observe the fields on a particular layer of the sun's surface or atmosphere. Moreover, none of them can see the layer SUMI will observe.


SUMI’s instruments are designed to study magnetic fields of the sun’s chromosphere -- a thin layer of solar atmosphere sandwiched between the visible surface, photosphere and its atmosphere, the corona. Hinode, a collaborative mission of the space agencies of Japan, the United States, United Kingdom and Europe, captured these very dynamic pictures of our sun's chromosphere on Jan. 12, 2007. Image credit: JAXA/NASA

"What's novel with this instrument is that it observes ultraviolet light, when all the others look at infrared or visible light," says Jonathan Cirtain, a solar scientist at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. and the principal investigator for SUMI. "Those wavelengths of light correspond to the lowest levels in the sun's atmosphere, but SUMI will look at locations higher in the chromosphere."

This higher layer of the chromosphere is known as the transition region – because the chromosphere transitions here into the part of the sun's atmosphere called the corona -- and it is a region that is dominated by the magnetic fields and in which solar material heats up dramatically forming the corona and the base of the solar wind. Understanding the structure of the magnetic fields in this region will then allow us to understand how the corona is heated and how the solar wind is formed. It is also an area believed to be where flare accelerated particles originate, so understanding the processes at play in the transition region can help with models to predict such eruptions on the sun.

To measure magnetic fields in the chromosphere, SUMI will observe the ultraviolet (UV) light emitted from two types of atoms on the sun, Magnesium 2 and Carbon 4. Through established methods of measuring how the light is affected as it travels through the magnetic environment of the solar atmosphere towards Earth, scientists can measure the original strength and direction of the magnetic fields, thus creating a three-dimensional magnetic map of the region.

This trip for SUMI is largely a test flight to make sure the instrument works and to assess possible improvements. The instrument flew once before in July 2010 but experienced a much higher G-force than expected, which broke screws holding the main mirror in place so it could not gather accurate data. The team has now reinforced the mirror.

"With the knowledge we get from a successful SUMI mission, we can go on to build space-based instrumentation that will help us understand the processes that form flares and CME's and help us predict space weather," says Cirtain.

SUMI will launch from White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico on a Black Brant rocket. The flight will last about eight minutes total.

Karen C. Fox
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD

Karen Fox | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.nasa.gov
http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/sunearth/news/sumi-science.html

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Only an atom thick: Physicists succeed in measuring mechanical properties of 2D monolayer materials
17.01.2018 | Universität des Saarlandes

nachricht Black hole spin cranks-up radio volume
15.01.2018 | National Institutes of Natural Sciences

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: Scientists decipher key principle behind reaction of metalloenzymes

So-called pre-distorted states accelerate photochemical reactions too

What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...

Im Focus: The first precise measurement of a single molecule's effective charge

For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.

Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...

Im Focus: Paradigm shift in Paris: Encouraging an holistic view of laser machining

At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.

No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...

Im Focus: Room-temperature multiferroic thin films and their properties

Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and Tohoku University have developed high-quality GFO epitaxial films and systematically investigated their ferroelectric and ferromagnetic properties. They also demonstrated the room-temperature magnetocapacitance effects of these GFO thin films.

Multiferroic materials show magnetically driven ferroelectricity. They are attracting increasing attention because of their fascinating properties such as...

Im Focus: A thermometer for the oceans

Measurement of noble gases in Antarctic ice cores

The oceans are the largest global heat reservoir. As a result of man-made global warming, the temperature in the global climate system increases; around 90% of...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

10th International Symposium: “Advanced Battery Power – Kraftwerk Batterie” Münster, 10-11 April 2018

08.01.2018 | Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Gran Chaco: Biodiversity at High Risk

17.01.2018 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

Only an atom thick: Physicists succeed in measuring mechanical properties of 2D monolayer materials

17.01.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Fraunhofer HHI receives AIS Technology Innovation Award 2018 for 3D Human Body Reconstruction

17.01.2018 | Awards Funding

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>