David Kirkpatrick

February 4, 2011

One more thing to do this Sunday — check out the sun

Hot from the inbox:

NASA Releasing First Views of the Entire Sun on Super SUN-Day

WASHINGTON, Feb. 4, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — NASA will score big on super SUN-day at 11 a.m. EST, Sunday, Feb. 6, with the release online of the first complete view of the sun’s entire surface and atmosphere.

(Logo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20081007/38461LOGO)

Seeing the whole sun front and back simultaneously will enable significant advances in space weather forecasting for Earth, and improve planning for future robotic or crewed spacecraft missions throughout the solar system.

These views are the result of observations by NASA’s two Solar TErrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO) spacecraft. The duo are on diametrically opposite sides of the sun, 180 degrees apart. One is ahead of Earth in its orbit, the other trailing behind.

Launched in October 2006, STEREO traces the flow of energy and matter from the sun to Earth. It also provides unique and revolutionary views of the sun-Earth system. The mission observed the sun in 3-D for the first time in 2007. In 2009, the twin spacecraft revealed the 3-D structure of coronal mass ejections which are violent eruptions of matter from the sun that can disrupt communications, navigation, satellites and power grids on Earth.

STEREO is the third mission in NASA’s Solar Terrestrial Probes program within the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., manages the mission, instruments and science center.

The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., designed and built the spacecraft and is responsible for mission operations.

The STEREO imaging and particle detecting instruments were designed and built by scientific institutions in the U.S., UK, France, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands and Switzerland.

To view the image with supporting visuals and information, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/stereo

For information about NASA and other agency programs, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov

SOURCE  NASA

Photo:http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20081007/38461LOGO
http://photoarchive.ap.org/
NASA

Web Site: http://www.nasa.gov

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September 2, 2010

NASA’s going to the sun

And announcing the first five solar missions. No need to rush and book reservations, though, since this mission is a good eight years from launch.

News hot from today’s inbox.

The release:

NASA Selects Investigations for First Mission to Encounter the Sun

WASHINGTON, Sept. 2 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — NASA has begun development of a mission to visit and study the sun closer than ever before. The unprecedented project, named Solar Probe Plus, is slated to launch no later than 2018.

(Logo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20081007/38461LOGO)
(Logo: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20081007/38461LOGO)

The small car-sized spacecraft will plunge directly into the sun’s atmosphere approximately four million miles from our star’s surface. It will explore a region no other spacecraft ever has encountered. NASA has selected five science investigations that will unlock the sun’s biggest mysteries.

“The experiments selected for Solar Probe Plus are specifically designed to solve two key questions of solar physics —  why is the sun’s outer atmosphere so much hotter than the sun’s visible surface and what propels the solar wind that affects Earth and our solar system?” said Dick Fisher, director of NASA’s Heliophysics Division in Washington. “We’ve been struggling with these questions for decades and this mission should finally provide those answers.”

As the spacecraft approaches the sun, its revolutionary carbon-composite heat shield must withstand temperatures exceeding 2550 degrees Fahrenheit and blasts of intense radiation. The spacecraft will have an up close and personal view of the sun enabling scientists to better understand, characterize and forecast the radiation environment for future space explorers.

NASA invited researchers in 2009 to submit science proposals. Thirteen were reviewed by a panel of NASA and outside scientists. The total dollar amount for the five selected investigations is approximately $180 million for preliminary analysis, design, development and tests.

The selected proposals are:

— Solar Wind Electrons Alphas and Protons Investigation: principal investigator, Justin C. Kasper, Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Mass. This investigation will specifically count the most abundant particles in the solar wind — electrons, protons and helium ions — and measure their properties. The investigation also is designed to catch some of the particles in a special cup for direct analysis.

— Wide-field Imager: principal investigator, Russell Howard, Naval Research Laboratory in Washington. This telescope will make 3-D images of the sun’s corona, or atmosphere. The experiment actually will see the solar wind and provide 3-D images of clouds and shocks as they approach and pass the spacecraft. This investigation complements instruments on the spacecraft providing direct measurements by imaging the plasma the other instruments sample.

— Fields Experiment: principal investigator, Stuart Bale, University of California Space Sciences Laboratory in Berkeley, Calif. This investigation will make direct measurements of electric and magnetic fields, radio emissions, and shock waves that course through the sun’s atmospheric plasma. The experiment also serves as a giant dust detector, registering voltage signatures when specks of space dust hit the spacecraft’s antenna.

— Integrated Science Investigation of the Sun: principal investigator, David McComas of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. This investigation consists of two instruments that will take an inventory of elements in the sun’s atmosphere using a mass spectrometer to weigh and sort ions in the vicinity of the spacecraft.

— Heliospheric Origins with Solar Probe Plus: principal investigator, Marco Velli of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. Velli is the mission’s observatory scientist, responsible for serving as a senior scientist on the science working group. He will provide an independent assessment of scientific performance and act as a community advocate for the mission.

“This project allows humanity’s ingenuity to go where no spacecraft has ever gone before,” said Lika Guhathakurta, Solar Probe Plus program scientist at NASA Headquarters, in Washington. “For the very first time, we’ll be able to touch, taste and smell our sun.”

The Solar Probe Plus mission is part of NASA’s Living with a Star Program. The program is designed to understand aspects of the sun and Earth’s space environment that affect life and society. The program is managed by NASA’S Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., with oversight from NASA’s Science Mission Directorate’s Heliophysics Division. The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., is the prime contractor for the spacecraft.

For more information about the Solar Probe Plus mission, visit:
http://solarprobe.gsfc.nasa.gov/

For more information about the Living with a Star Program, visit:
http://science.nasa.gov/about-us/smd-programs/living-with-a-star/

Photo:  http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20081007/38461LOGO
PRN Photo Desk photodesk@prnewswire.com
http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20081007/38461LOGO
Source: NASA

Web Site:  http://www.nasa.gov/

June 14, 2010

Amazing space image — the sun

Hot from the inbox:

X-Ray image of the sun

Hit this link for a much, much larger version (too big for this blog).

The release:

GOES-15 Solar X-Ray Imager Makes a Miraculous First Light

GREENBELT, Md., June 14 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The Solar X-Ray Imager instrument aboard the GOES-15 satellite has just provided its first light image of the sun, but it required a lot of experts to make it happen.

(Logo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20081007/38461LOGO)

Scientists and engineers from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have been working to bring the Solar X-Ray Imager (SXI) instrument to full functionality since the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES)-15, formerly known as the GOES-P satellite, achieved orbit.

GOES-15 launched on March 4, 2010 from Cape Canaveral, Fla. On April 6, 2010, GOES-15 captured its first visible image of Earth and on April 26, GOES-15 took its first full-disk infrared image.

“Since the early checkout of GOES 15 (P) and the anomalous turn on of the Solar X-Ray Imager, the team has been aggressively pursuing all avenues to recover the instrument,” said Andre’ Dress, GOES N-P Deputy Project Manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. “Frankly, we were down to our last straw when all the teams’ hard work and efforts finally paid off.  We now believe we have a full recovery of the instrument’s functionality!  It’s an incredible story and a true testament of our NASA/contractor teams’ expertise, hard work and determination.”

On June 3, the GOES 15 Solar X-Ray Imager finally came on-line. Scientists and engineers had subjected SXI to a series of long duration turn on tests in the hopes of clearing the short. About 16 hours into the testing, the instrument voltages returned to normal values and SXI now appears to be functioning properly.

“We were facing a tough problem when we first attempted to bring SXI on-line,” said

George Koerner, SXI program manager at the Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company (LMSSC) Advanced Technology Center (ATC) in Palo Alto, Calif., where the Solar X-ray Imager was designed and built. “But because of our ability to bring together subject matter experts from both government and industry, to move forward step by step, and to work as a team patiently and persistently, together we achieved mission success. This is an enormously satisfying outcome.”

Since its recovery, several test solar images have also been subsequently taken successfully. The GOES team continue to assess the health of the instrument. This new round of testing will assess SXI’s total functionality. That functionality means the team will capture images of the sun with the camera to assess whether the camera is properly processing image data.

“I don’t think most people realize how important these space weather instruments are in our everyday life,” Dress said. “This data is used by the U.S. Department of Defense, NOAA, NASA, and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in protecting our space assets, land-based assets and directing flight paths for the FAA.”

GOES-15 will join three other NOAA operational GOES spacecraft that help the agency’s forecasters track life-threatening weather and solar activity that can impact the satellite-based electronics and communications industry. NASA’s testing of the spacecraft and its instruments will continue through the entire post-launch test period expected to end in late August 2010. This will be followed by a series of NOAA Science Tests. The GOES series of U.S. satellites are developed by a joint NASA-NOAA-Industry partnership, launched by NASA (with industry partners), and operated by NOAA.

For the first GOES SXI image, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/GOES-P/news/xray_imager.html

For more information about the GOES-P mission and program on the Web, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/goes-p

Photo:  PRN Photo Desk photodesk@prnewswire.com
http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20081007/38461LOGO
Source: NASA

Web Site:  http://www.nasa.gov/

May 2, 2010

Beautiful space image — the sun

Filed under: et.al., Media, Science — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:34 am

Wow.

SDO First Light composite image from March 30, 2010.

A full-disk multiwavelength extreme ultraviolet image of the sun taken by SDO on March 30, 2010. False colors trace different gas temperatures. Reds are relatively cool (about 60,000 Kelvin, or 107,540 F); blues and greens are hotter (greater than 1 million Kelvin, or 1,799,540 F). Credit: NASA/Goddard/SDO AIA Team

As usual, hit the link up there for a larger version of the image and more information.

Update 5/3/10: I haven’t read the Bad Astronomer (see blogroll) in while and happened to yesterday only to find a post with this image and more explanation, plus another very cool image from the SDO.)