Tuesday, May 25, 2010
The Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA), one of three instruments aboard SDO, allowed scientists to discover that even minor solar events are never truly small scale. Shortly after AIA opened its doors on March 30, scientists observed a large eruptive prominence on the sun's edge, followed by a filament eruption a third of the way across the star's disk from the eruption.
"Even small events restructure large regions of the solar surface," said Alan Title, AIA principal investigator at Lockheed Martin Advanced Technology Center in Palo Alto, Calif. "It's been possible to recognize the size of these regions because of the combination of spatial, temporal and area coverage provided by AIA."
Monday, May 24, 2010
Dark Filament of the Sun
Explanation: Suspended by magnetic fields above a solar active region this dark filament stretches over 40 earth-diameters. The ominous structure appears to be frozen in time near the Sun's edge, but solar filaments are unstable and often erupt. The detailed scene was captured on May 18 in extreme ultraviolet light by cameras on board the Solar Dynamics Observatory. While the cooler plasma of the filament looks dark, hotter, brighter plasma below traces magnetic field lines emerging from the active region. When seen arcing above the edge of the Sun, filaments actually look bright against the dark background of space and are called prominences.
Credit: NASA / Goddard / SDO AIA Team
Friday, May 21, 2010
Scientists at Stanford University and Lockheed Martin are playing pivotal roles in a nearly billion-dollar NASA mission to explore the sun. A spacecraft launched in early 2010 is obtaining IMAX-like images of the sun every second of the day, generating more data than any NASA mission in history.
Monday, May 10, 2010
We have had haikus and sonnets written about the commissioning phase. Now a First Light poem, written by Stuart Atkinson about the prominence eruption on March 30, 2010.
And at last, the secret of our solar system's star has been revealed:
Concealed beneath its brightly shimmering, ever-shifting shells
Of ancient hydrogen a mighty dragon lies; planet-sized
Eyes flashing with photon fire, riding the great plasma tides
Boiling up from Sol's deep core, it roars in raw delight,
Feeding on the brutal fusion light throbbing beneath its feet...
Hiding in the Sun's dark heart it bathes in nuclear fire,
Revelling in its fury, rolling in it, each beat of its wings
Sending great waves of energy slamming up into the
Chromosphere to ripple and roil across Sol's surface
In tsunamis of atomic fire, to the amazement of those watching,
Wide-eyed, on Faraday's far-away Earth...
But these images reveal the dragon is not alone;
The Sun's firestorm fields clearly have shielded
Our prying eyes from flocks of phoenixes flying
In the dragon's wake. Each time a starfirebird bursts
Through the seething surface of our star we see
A glorious prominence leaping into space;
Every feathered, towering arch traces out the path
Of a phoenix's graceful rise and fall.
Each time one manages to break free
Of the Sun's greedy gravity we see a
Fiery red banner billow out, tatter and tear,
Flapping away like it had never been there...
© Stuart Atkinson 2010
Large Eruptive Prominence Movie from SDO
Credit: NASA/Goddard/SDO AIA Team
Explanation: Sometimes part of the Sun can just explode into space. These explosions might occur as powerful solar flares, coronal mass ejections, or comparatively tame eruptive solar prominences. Pictured above is one of the largest solar prominence eruptions yet observed, one associated with a subsequent coronal mass ejection. The prominence erupted last month and was recorded by several Sun-sensing instruments, including the recently launched Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). The above time lapse sequence was captured by SDO and occurred over a few hours. In recent months, our Sun has becoming increasingly active, following a few years of an unusually dormant solar minimum. Over the next few years our Sun is expected to reach solar maximum and exhibit a dramatic increase in sunspots and all types of solar explosions.
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
10:02: yo-yo despin
10:05: ejection of yo-yo despin cables
10:10: Black Brandt 2nd stage falling away toward Earth
10:12: Shutter door with crush bumper opening
10:16: Switch to nose-viewing camera
10:20: Nose cone ejection and seeing the nose cone fall away
10:40: Solar acquisition
Monday, May 3, 2010
"SDO has just observed a massive eruption on the sun—one of the biggest in years," says Lika Guhathakurta of NASA headquarters in Washington DC. "The footage is not only dramatic, but also could solve a longstanding mystery of solar physics."
Karel Schrijver of Lockheed Martin's Solar and Astrophysics Lab is leading the analysis. "We can see a billion tons of magnetized plasma blasting into space while debris from the explosion falls back onto the sun surface. These may be our best data yet."
Click here to read the rest of the article