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(Astronomy) Sun-like Star May Host Infant Planets

 
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 07, 2006 7:25 pm    Post subject: (Astronomy) Sun-like Star May Host Infant Planets Reply with quote






Sun-like Star May Host Infant Planets
By The Associated Press
posted: 15 December 2005
11:34 a.m. ET


PASADENA, Calif. (AP) – Astronomers have spotted a swirling debris cloud around a sun-like star where terrestrial planets similar to Earth may be forming in a process that could shed light on the birth of the solar system.

The star, located 137 light-years away, appears to possess an asteroid belt, a zone where the leftovers of failed planets collide. Terrestrial planets are those with rocky surfaces, as opposed to a gas composition.

Scientists estimate the star is about 30 million years old – about the same age as our sun when terrestrial planets like Earth were nearly formed.

“This is one of a very rare class of objects that may give us a glimpse into what our solar system may have looked like,'' the Space Science Institute's Dean Hines, who led the discovery, said in a statement.

Using the Spitzer Space Telescope, astronomers measured the temperature of the debris disk to be minus 262 degrees Fahrenheit, warmer than other similar disks. The sun has a surface temperature between 5,000 and 7,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

Earlier this year, another team using the Spitzer telescope announced the discovery of another asteroid belt orbiting a 2-billion-year-old sun-like star 35 light-years away.

*************************************************************

Questions to explore further this topic:

What are stars?

http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/s.....ndex.shtml
http://www.enchantedlearning.c.....omy/stars/

What is the sun?

http://www.windows.ucar.edu/to.....p;edu=elem
http://www.enchantedlearning.c.....onomy/sun/
http://vortex.plymouth.edu/sun/sun2.html
http://www.astro.uva.nl/demo/sun/kaft.htm
http://www.nineplanets.org/sol.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sun
http://www.thespectroscopynet......al/Sun.htm

Images of the sun

http://umbra.nascom.nasa.gov/images/latest.html
http://sunearth.gsfc.nasa.gov/.....flash.html
http://sohowww.nascom.nasa.gov.....it_304.gif

How is the sun observed? (SOHO)

http://sohowww.nascom.nasa.gov.....n_Obs.html

How does the sun work?

http://science.howstuffworks.com/sun.htm

What is the weather on the sun?

http://www.spaceweathercenter......04/04.html

Parts of the sun

http://www.spaceweathercenter......03/03.html
http://science.howstuffworks.com/sun1.htm

An introduction to space weather

http://www.sec.noaa.gov/primer/primer.html

What are sunspots?

http://www.spaceweathercenter......05/05.html

What are solar winds?

http://www.spaceweathercenter......06/06.html

How is the earth protected from the sun?

http://www.spaceweathercenter......01/01.html

Earth's magnetic field
http://www.spaceweathercenter......02/02.html

The Ionosphere
http://www.spaceweathercenter......03/03.html

The Ozone Layer
http://www.science.org.au/nova/004/004key.htm

Movies of solar eclipse

http://sunearthday.nasa.gov/20...../video.php

Power point presentations for lessons about the sun

http://sunearthday.nasa.gov/20.....rpoint.php

What are solar storms?

http://son.nasa.gov/tass/index.htm

Particles from the sun to earth

http://www.spaceweathercenter......wrath.html

The sun and your health

http://www.cdc.gov/ChooseYourCover/qanda.htm

History of sun-watching

http://sunearthday.nasa.gov/20.....meline.php

The sun and ancient civilization

http://www.traditionsofthesun.org/


GAMES

http://www.spaceweathercenter......place.html
http://www.spaceweathercenter......igolf.html
http://www.spaceweathercenter......wrath.html


Last edited by adedios on Sat Jan 27, 2007 5:02 pm; edited 2 times in total
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 08, 2006 8:28 am    Post subject: Half a Dozen Stars Born in Milky Way Every Year Reply with quote

Half a Dozen Stars Born in Milky Way Every Year
By Robert Roy Britt
Senior Science Writer
posted: 05 January 2006
02:30 pm ET


Astronomers have the best evidence yet pinning down how just many stars form in our galaxy every year: about half a dozen.

The research also indicates that a massive star explodes as a supernova in the Milky Way every 50 years on average. We're overdue, the scientists say.

"Our galaxy isn't the biggest producer of stars and supernovae in the universe, but there's still plenty of activity," said lead researcher Roland Diehl of Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Germany.

The work, based on data from the European Space Agency's INTEGRAL satellite, was reported this week in the journal Nature. Diehl's team based the conclusions on an examination of the remnants of stars that have exploded over the past few million years.

Specifically, INTEGRAL recorded gamma rays coming from regions of the galaxy shining brightly from the radioactive decay of aluminum-26, an isotope of aluminum produced in massive stars and in their explosions.

The research was funded in part by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

About 90 percent of the gas our Milky Way started with several billion years ago has now been converted into stars, the researchers said.

"Determining star formation rates in our galaxy can be difficult because gas and dust in the Milky Way's spiral arms obscure star formation taking place all around us," said Bonnard Teegarden, INTEGRAL U.S. Project Scientist at Goddard. "Gamma rays, more so than other forms of light, can penetrate this dust. This approach based on gamma rays is the most direct method available to determine the recent history of stellar activity."

Understanding supernovas is important because they re-seed the galaxy with ever-heavier elements that form new generations of stars. Everything on and in the Earth, at least beyond hydrogen and helium, is the result of stellar explosions.

"Life depends on stars creating elements we so desperately need," said Clemson University astrophysicist Dieter Hartmann, a co-author of the paper. "It's these elements that support life here on Earth and probably elsewhere."
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 13, 2006 6:16 pm    Post subject: New technique provides the sun's full view of its far side Reply with quote

Stanford University
13 March 2006

New technique provides the first full view of the far side of the sun

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
http://www.stanford.edu/dept/n.....31506.html
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


The hidden face of the sun is fully visible for the first time, thanks to a new technique developed at Stanford University.

Only half of the sun--the near side--is directly observable. The far side always faces away from Earth and is therefore out of view. But the new technology allows anyone with a computer to download images of the entire solar surface--an important advance with practical applications, say researchers, because potentially damaging solar storms that form on the far side now can be detected days, or even weeks, before they wreak havoc on Earth.

"Sunspots, solar flares and other active regions on the surface of the sun emit radiation that can interfere with orbiting satellites, telecommunications and power transmission," says Philip Scherrer, research professor in the Stanford Department of Physics. "This new method allows more reliable warning of magnetic storms brewing on the far side that could rotate with the sun and threaten the Earth."

It takes about 27 days for the sun to rotate on its axis, so an active region that forms on the far side can remain hidden for up to 13 days, surprising Earth-bound observers when it finally rotates into view. That's what happened in October 2003, when active regions from the back side suddenly appeared on the eastern edge of the sun, spewing X-rays, ultraviolet radiation and high-energy particles into space. "We were not able to make a public prediction about the intensity of that activity, because at the time we could only image about a quarter to a third of the far side," Scherrer says. "The new method allows us to see the entire far side, including the poles."

SOHO mission

Scherrer and his Stanford colleagues study the sun using data from the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), a research satellite launched in 1995 by NASA and the European Space Agency. On board SOHO is the Michelson Doppler Imager (MDI), an electronic instrument that creates images of the sun's interior by measuring the velocity of sound waves produced by hot, bubbling gases that well up to the surface--a technique called acoustic helioseismology.

"Heliosesimology works on the same principle as medical ultrasound, which can create an image of a fetus inside a pregnant woman," Scherrer explains. "In this case, we're looking through a star with sound waves."

Positioned about 1 million miles above Earth, the SOHO satellite always faces the visible front side of the sun. In 2000 and 2001, scientists Charles Lindsey and Doug Braun--now at NorthWest Research Associates Inc.--developed two techniques that resulted in the first pictures of the sun's back side. However, both techniques had limitations. One method only produced images near the center of the far side, while the other was restricted to views at the edges. To get complete image, researchers would have to combine both methods, but that proved to be a major technical challenge.

The problem was finally overcome last summer when a new computer algorithm was developed by the Stanford SOHO/MDI team in collaboration with Kenneth Oslund, an undergraduate at the California Institute of Technology. Their work resulted in the MDI Farside Graphics Viewer, which displays the first full images of the far side of the sun. The viewer is available online at http://soi.stanford.edu/press/farside_Feb2006/web.

Solar max

"This new method is a vast improvement," Scherrer says. "It should be especially important during the next solar maximum, which should begin in 2011, when solar activity will be at its peak."

He points out that during the last "solar max," which lasted from 2000 to 2003, solar storms temporarily knocked out power in the northern parts of Sweden and Canada and destroyed a satellite that was used to verify credit card payments at numerous gas stations in the United States. Air transportation also can be disrupted when solar radiation interferes with the operation of Global Positioning System satellites, or when aircraft that take short cuts over the North Pole have to take longer routes to prevent passengers and crew from being exposed to intense X-ray radiation.

"Our goal is to give pilots and air traffic controllers a day or two notice of a possible solar event," Scherrer says, adding that missions to Mars and other planets also can be affected when solar storms interfere with satellite communications to Earth. Last week, researchers at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado released new computer models predicting that the next solar cycle will be 30 to 50 percent stronger than last time.

In 2008, SOHO is scheduled to be replaced by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), a more advanced satellite designed to provide new data about the magnetic forces inside the sun that drive the 11-year solar cycle. Stanford, the University of Colorado and the Lockheed Martin Corp. will lead the SDO research effort.

"With cell phones and other devices, we've gotten more and more dependent on the space environment, so there are real economic reasons for missions like SOHO and SDO," Scherrer says.
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 20, 2007 8:29 am    Post subject: Surprises from the Sun’s South Pole Reply with quote

Surprises from the Sun’s South Pole
ESA

19 February 2007
Although very close to the minimum of its 11-year sunspot cycle, the Sun showed that it is still capable of producing a series of remarkably energetic outbursts - ESA-NASA Ulysses mission revealed.

In keeping with the first and second south polar passes (in 1994 and 2000), the latest high-latitude excursion of the joint ESA-NASA Ulysses mission has already produced some surprises. In mid-December 2006, although very close to the minimum of its 11-year sunspot cycle, the Sun showed that it is still capable of producing a series of remarkably energetic outbursts.
The solar storms, which were confined to the equatorial regions, produced quite intense bursts of particle radiation that were clearly observed by near-Earth satellites. Surprisingly, similar increases in radiation were detected by the instruments on board Ulysses, even though it was three times as far away and almost over the south solar pole. "Particle events of this kind were seen during the second polar passes in 2000 and 2001, at solar maximum," said Richard Marsden, ESA's Ulysses Project Scientist and Mission Manager. "We certainly didn't expect to see them at high latitudes at solar minimum!"

Scientists are busy trying to understand how the charged particles made it all the way to the poles. "Charged particles have to follow magnetic field lines, and the magnetic field pattern of the Sun near solar minimum ought to make it much more difficult for the particles to move in latitude," said Marsden.

One of the puzzles remaining from the first high-latitude passes in 1994 and 1995 has to do with the temperature of the Sun's poles. When Ulysses first passed over the south and then the north solar pole near solar minimum, it measured the temperatures of the large polar coronal holes.

Temperature of the Sun’s polar coronal holes as measured by Ulysses

"Surprisingly, the temperature in the north polar coronal hole was about 7 to 8 percent lower compared with the south polar coronal hole," said Professor George Gloeckler, Principal Investigator for the Solar Wind Ion Composition Spectrometer (SWICS) on board Ulysses.

"We couldn't tell then whether this was simply due to progressive cooling of both polar coronal holes as the Sun was approaching its minimum level of activity in 1996, or whether this was an indication of a permanently cooler north pole."

Now, as Ulysses again passes over the large polar coronal holes of the Sun at solar minimum we will finally have the answer. Recent SWICS observations show that the average temperature of the southern polar coronal hole at the current solar minimum is as low as it was 10 years ago in the northern polar coronal hole. "This implies that the asymmetry between north and south has switched with the change of the magnetic polarity of the Sun," said Gloeckler. The definitive proof will come when Ulysses measures the temperature of the north polar coronal during the next 15 months.
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 03, 2007 8:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Tracking Solar Storms
Emily Sohn

March 7, 2007

Sitting in the sun on a warm day can be relaxing, but the sun is not a peaceful place.
Every two days or so, our star spits out a billion-ton cloud of particles that go racing into space. These solar storms are called coronal mass ejections. The particles in the storms have electric charges.

For the full article:

http://www.sciencenewsforkids....../Note3.asp
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 13, 2007 7:08 am    Post subject: Sun Blamed for Warming of Earth and Other Worlds Reply with quote

Sun Blamed for Warming of Earth and Other Worlds

By Ker Than
LiveScience Staff Writer
posted: 12 March 2007
07:27 am ET

Earth is heating up lately, but so are Mars, Pluto and other worlds in our solar system, leading some scientists to speculate that a change in the sun’s activity is the common thread linking all these baking events.

Others argue that such claims are misleading and create the false impression that rapid global warming, as Earth is experiencing, is a natural phenomenon.

While evidence suggests fluctuations in solar activity can affect climate on Earth, and that it has done so in the past, the majority of climate scientists and astrophysicists agree that the sun is not to blame for the current and historically sudden uptick in global temperatures on Earth, which seems to be mostly a mess created by our own species.

For the full article:

http://www.livescience.com/env.....rming.html
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 23, 2007 10:09 am    Post subject: NASA Releases Stunning New 3-D Views of the Sun Reply with quote

NASA Releases Stunning New 3-D Views of the Sun
By Jeanna Bryner
Staff Writer
posted: 23 April 2007
11:01 am ET


Scientists unveiled today some of the first 3-D images of the violent electrical storms that rage within the Sun’s atmosphere.

In the new images, the electrified loops and charged particles that blow from the Sun’s surface seem to come to life. Besides the oohs-and-aahs, the results will help scientists track powerful solar eruptions and predict how they could affect Earth, similar to hurricane-tracking.

The pictures were snapped with two nearly identical observatories that orbit the Sun in tandem. Called STEREO (Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory), the spacecraft were launched in October 2006, but it wasn’t until the end of March that the two observatories were separated by enough distance to allow them to generate the 3-D pictures. The technique is similar to how the offset between your eyes provides you with depth perception.

For the full article:

http://www.space.com/scienceas.....o_sun.html
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PostPosted: Mon May 07, 2007 7:32 am    Post subject: Sun's Ripples Reveal Clues to the Core Reply with quote

Sun's Ripples Reveal Clues to the Core
By Charles Q. Choi , Special to LiveScience

posted: 06 May 2007 09:30 pm ET

The core of the Sun holds secrets into how it and the planets formed billions of years ago, but the bright solar surface obscures the view of its heart.

Now after a 30-year search, astrophysicists may have detected hints of ripples on the surface, just a few yards high, that could finally help shed light on the mysterious core.

The results suggest the Sun's core rotates more slowly than theorists have predicted.

For the full article:

http://www.livescience.com/spa.....pples.html
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PostPosted: Tue May 22, 2007 9:42 am    Post subject: Tracing Our Sun’s Family Tree Reply with quote

Tracing Our Sun’s Family Tree
By David Powell, Special to SPACE.com

posted: 22 May 2007 06:04 am ET

New research into the chemical composition of stars could identify our Sun's long lost family and begin to unravel the complex history of our galaxy.

Gayandhi De Silva and colleagues at the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope (VLT) used the instrument's Ultraviolet and Visual Echelle Spectrograph (UVES) to examine three open star clusters in our Milky Way galaxy.

Open clusters are loosely gravitationally bound groups containing up to a few thousand individual stars. These clusters formed from the collapse of a giant molecular cloud of gas and can have ages up to 10 billion years.

For the full article:

http://www.livescience.com/spa.....amily.html
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PostPosted: Fri May 25, 2007 8:36 am    Post subject: Astrophysicists find fractal image of Sun’s ‘Storm Season’ i Reply with quote

Astrophysicists find fractal image of Sun’s ‘Storm Season’ imprinted on Solar Wind
University of Warwick
25 May 2007

Plasma astrophysicists at the University of Warwick have found that key information about the Sun’s 'storm season’ is being broadcast across the solar system in a fractal snapshot imprinted in the solar wind. This research opens up new ways of looking at both space weather and the unstable behaviour that affects the operation of fusion powered power plants.

Fractals, mathematical shapes that retain a complex but similar patterns at different magnifications, are frequently found in nature from snowflakes to trees and coastlines. Now Plasma Astrophysicists in the University of Warwick’s Centre for Fusion, Space and Astrophysics have devised a new method to detect the same patterns in the solar wind.

The researchers, led by Professor Sandra Chapman, have also been able to directly tie these fractal patterns to the Sun’s ‘storm season’. The Sun goes through a solar cycle roughly 11 years long. The researchers found the fractal patterns in the solar wind occur when the Sun was at the peak of this cycle when the solar corona was at its most active, stormy and complex – sunspot activity, solar flares etc. When the corona was quieter no fractal patterns were found in the solar wind only general turbulence.

This means that fractal signature is coming from the complex magnetic field of the sun.

This new information will help astrophysicists understand how the solar corona heats the solar wind and the nature of the turbulence of the Solar Wind with its implications for cosmic ray flux and space weather.

These techniques used to find and understand the fractal patterns in the Solar Wind are also being used to assist the quest for fusion power. Researchers in the University of Warwick’s Centre for Fusion, Space and Astrophysics (CFSA) are collaborating with scientists from the EURATOM/UKAEA fusion research programme to measure and understand fluctuations in the world leading fusion experiment MAST (the Mega Amp Spherical Tokamak) at Culham. Controlling plasma fluctuations in tokamaks is important for getting the best performance out of future fusion power plants.

Notes for Editors:

1. The research by K.Kiyani, S. C. Chapman, B. Hnat, R. M. Nicol, is entitled "Self- similar signature of the active solar corona within the inertial range of solar wind turbulence" and was published on May 18th 2007 in Phys. Rev. Lett.

2. The researchers received support and data from STFC (previously PPARC), EPSRC, and the NASA WIND, ACE and ULYSSES teams.

For further information please contact:

Professor Sandra C. Chapman, Director
Centre for Fusion, Space and Astrophysics
University of Warwick, http://www.warwick.ac.uk/go/cfsa/
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PostPosted: Sat May 26, 2007 2:03 pm    Post subject: Violent Past: Young sun withstood a supernova blast Reply with quote

Week of May 26, 2007; Vol. 171, No. 21 , p. 323

Violent Past: Young sun withstood a supernova blast
Ron Cowen


A big bully pummeled our sun in its infancy, fatefully altering the composition and evolution of the solar system, a new study suggests. The heavy, in this case, was a nearby, massive star. First, the massive star pounded the young sun with fierce winds. Then, the tyrant exploded, blasting the sun with shock waves that suffused it and its embryonic planets with iron.

For the full article:

http://sciencenews.org/articles/20070526/fob1.asp
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PostPosted: Tue May 29, 2007 10:34 am    Post subject: Magnetic field uses sound waves to ignite sun's ring of fire Reply with quote

National Science Foundation
28 May 2007

Magnetic field uses sound waves to ignite sun's ring of fire

Research explains century-old mystery about the interior of the sun
Sound waves escaping the sun's interior create fountains of hot gas that shape and power a thin region of the sun's atmosphere which appears as a ruby red "ring of fire" around the moon during a total solar eclipse, according to research funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and NASA.

The results are presented today at the American Astronomical Society's Solar Physics Division meeting in Hawaii.

This region, called the chromosphere because of its color, is largely responsible for the deep ultraviolet radiation that bathes the Earth, producing the atmosphere's ozone layer.

It also has the strongest solar connection to climate variability.

"The sun's interior vibrates with the peal of millions of bells, but the bells are all on the inside of the building," said Scott McIntosh of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo., lead member of the research team. "We've been able to show how the sound can escape the building and travel a long way using the magnetic field as a guide."

The new result also helps explain a mystery that's existed since the middle of the last century -- why the sun's chromosphere (and the corona above) is much hotter than the visible surface of the star. "It's getting warmer as you move away from the fire instead of cooler, certainly not what you would expect," said McIntosh.

"Scientists have long realized that observations of solar magnetic fields are the keys that will unlock the secrets of the sun's interior," said Paul Bellaire, program director in NSF's division of atmospheric sciences, which funded the research. "These researchers have found an ingenious way of using magnetic keys to pick those locks."

Using spacecraft, ground-based telescopes, and computer simulations, the results show that the sun's magnetic field allows the release of wave energy from its interior, permitting the sound waves to travel through thin fountains upward and into the solar chromosphere. The magnetic fountains form the mold for the chromosphere.

Researchers say that it's like standing in Yellowstone National Park and being surrounded by musical geysers that pop up at random, sending out shrill sound waves and hot water shooting high into the air.

"This work finds the missing piece of the puzzle that has fascinated many generations of solar astronomers," said Alexei Pevtsov, program scientist at NASA. "If you fit this piece into place, the whole picture of chromosphere heating becomes more clear."

Over the past twenty years, scientists have studied energetic sound waves as probes of the Sun's interior because the waves are largely trapped by the sun's visible surface -- the photosphere. The research found that some of these waves can escape the photosphere into the chromosphere and corona.

To make the discovery, the team used observations from the SOHO and TRACE spacecraft combined with those from the Magneto-Optical filters at Two Heights, or MOTH, instrument in Antarctica, and the Swedish 1-meter Solar Telescope on the Canary Islands.

The observations gave detailed insights into how some of the trapped waves and their pent-up energy manage to leak out through magnetic "cracks" in the photosphere, sending mass and energy shooting upwards into the atmosphere above.

By analyzing motions of the solar atmosphere in detail, the scientists observed that where there are strong knots in the Sun's magnetic field, sound waves from the interior can leak out and propagate upward into its atmosphere.

"The constantly evolving magnetic field above the solar surface acts like a doorman opening and closing the door for the waves that are constantly passing by," said Bart De Pontieu, a scientist at the Lockheed Martin Solar and Astrophysics Laboratory in Palo Alto, Calif.

These results were confirmed by state-of-the-art computer simulations that show how the leaking waves propel fountains of hot gas upward into the sun's atmosphere, and fall back to its surface a few minutes later.


###
Other research team members are Stuart Jeffries of the University of Hawaii and Viggo Hansteen of the University of Oslo and the Lockheed Martin Solar and Astrophysics Laboratory.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering, with an annual budget of $5.58 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 1,700 universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives about 40,000 competitive requests for funding, and makes nearly 10,000 new funding awards. The NSF also awards over $400 million in professional and service contracts yearly.

Receive official NSF news electronically through the e-mail delivery and notification system, MyNSF (formerly the Custom News Service). To subscribe, visit http://www.nsf.gov/mynsf/ and fill in the information under "new users".

Useful NSF Web Sites:
NSF Home Page: http://www.nsf.gov
NSF News: http://www.nsf.gov/news/
For the News Media: http://www.nsf.gov/news/newsroom.jsp
Science and Engineering Statistics: http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/
Awards Searches: http://www.nsf.gov/awardsearch/
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 20, 2007 8:48 am    Post subject: Summer Solstice: How and Why Seasons Change Reply with quote

Summer Solstice: How and Why Seasons Change
By Joe Rao, SPACE.com Skywatching Columnist

posted: 19 June 2007 07:21 am ET

In the Northern Hemisphere, summer will officially begin at the solstice, on Thursday, June 21 at 2:06 p.m. EDT (11:06 a.m. PDT). The sun will reach the point where it's furthest north of the celestial equator. Summer officially begins in the Northern Hemisphere and winter begins for the Southern Hemisphere.

At solstice, the sun will appear to be shining directly overhead for a point on the Tropic of Cancer (latitude 23.5 degrees north) to the north of the Yucatan Peninsula, over the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

This changing of the seasons takes place because the plane of Earth's equator is tilted 23.5 degrees to our orbit around the sun.

For the full article:

http://www.livescience.com/spa.....stice.html
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 13, 2007 1:49 pm    Post subject: Satellite shows regional variation in warming from sun durin Reply with quote

University of Colorado at Boulder
13 November 2007

Satellite shows regional variation in warming from sun during solar cycle


A NASA satellite designed, built and controlled by the University of Colorado at Boulder is expected to help scientists resolve wide-ranging predictions about the coming solar cycle peak in 2012 and its influence on Earth's warming climate, according to the chief scientist on the project.

Senior Research Associate Tom Woods of CU-Boulder's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics said the brightening of the sun as it approaches its next solar cycle maximum will have regional climatic impacts on Earth. While some scientists predict the next solar cycle -- expected to start in 2008 -- will be significantly weaker than the present one, others are forecasting an increase of up to 40 percent in the sun's activity, said Woods.

Woods is the principal investigator on NASA's $88 million Solar Radiation and Climate Experiment, or SORCE, mission, launched in 2003 to study how and why variations in the sun affect Earth's atmosphere and climate. In August, NASA extended the SORCE mission through 2012. The extension provides roughly $18 million to LASP, which controls SORCE from campus by uploading commands and downloading data three times daily to the Space Technology Building in the CU Research Park.

Solar cycles, which span an average of 11 years, are driven by the amount and size of sunspots present on the sun's surface, which modulate brightness from the X-ray to infrared portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. The current solar cycle peaked in 2002.

Solar activity alters interactions between Earth's surface and its atmosphere, which drive global circulation patterns, said Woods. While warming on Earth from increased solar brightness is modest compared to the natural effects of volcanic eruptions, cyclical weather patterns like El Nino or human emissions of greenhouse gases, regional temperature changes can vary by a factor of eight.

During the most recent solar maximum, for example, the global mean temperature rise on Earth due to solar-brightness increases was only about 0.2 degrees Fahrenheit, said Woods. But parts of the central United States warmed by 0.7 degrees F, and a region off the coast of California even cooled slightly. A paper on the coming decade of solar activity by Woods and Judith Lean of the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., was published online Oct. 30 in the scientific newsletter, Eos.

"It was very important to the climate change community that SORCE was extended, because it allows us to continue charting the solar irradiance record in a number of wavelengths without interruption," Woods said. "Even relatively small changes in solar output can significantly affect Earth because of the amplifying affect in how the atmosphere responds to solar changes."

With mounting concern over the alteration of Earth's surface and atmosphere by humans, it is increasingly important to understand natural "forcings" on the sun-Earth system that impact both climate and space weather, said Woods. Such natural forcing includes heat from the sun's radiation that causes saltwater and freshwater evaporation and drives Earth's water cycle.

Increases in UV radiation from the sun also heat up the stratosphere -- located from 10 miles to 30 miles above Earth -- which can cause significant changes in atmospheric circulation patterns over the planet, affecting Earth's weather and climate, he said. "We will never fully understand the human impact on Earth and its atmosphere unless we first establish the natural effects of solar variability."

SORCE also is helping scientists better understand violent space weather episodes triggered by solar flares and coronal mass ejections that affect the upper atmosphere and are more prevalent in solar maximum and declining solar cycle phases, said Woods. The severe "Halloween Storms" in October and November 2003 disrupted GPS navigation and communications, causing extensive and costly rerouting of commercial "over-the-poles" jet flights to lower latitudes, he said.

Woods also is the principal investigator on a $30 million instrument known as the Extreme Ultraviolet Variability Experiment, or EVE, one of three solar instruments slated for launch on NASA's Solar Dynamic Observatory in December 2008. Designed and built at LASP and delivered to NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland last September, EVE will measure precise changes in the sun's UV brightness, providing space weather forecasters with early warnings of potential communications and navigation outages.

About one-third of the annual SORCE budget goes for commanding and controlling the satellite, roughly one-third for producing public data sets and one-third for analyzing how and why the sun is changing, he said. "CU-Boulder students are our lifeblood," said Woods. "They are involved in all aspects of the SORCE mission, from uploading commands to the spacecraft to analyzing data."


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A podcast on SORCE featuring Woods can be accessed on the Web at: http://www.colorado.edu/news/podcasts/
For more information on SORCE, visit the Web at: http://lasp.colorado.edu/sorce/news_letter.html
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 07, 2007 3:11 pm    Post subject: Hinode: new insights on the origin of solar wind Reply with quote

Hinode: new insights on the origin of solar wind
ESA

7 December 2007
Spectacular images and data from the Hinode mission have shed new light on the Sun's magnetic field and the origins of solar wind, which can disrupt power grids, satellites and communications on Earth.

The results are published in the 7 December issue of the journal Science.
Data from Hinode, a Japanese (JAXA) mission with ESA participation, shows that magnetic waves play a critical role in driving the solar wind into space. The solar wind is a stream of electrically charged gas that is propelled away from the Sun in all directions at speeds of almost 1.5 million km/h. Better understanding of the solar wind may lead to more accurate prediction of damaging radiation waves before they reach satellites.

For the full article:

http://www.esa.int/esaSC/SEMGUB29R9F_index_0.html
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 17, 2007 2:51 pm    Post subject: Sun's Next Cycle of Fury May Have Begun Reply with quote

Sun's Next Cycle of Fury May Have Begun
By SPACE.com Staff

posted: 17 December 2007 10:09 am ET

The sun's next cycle of increased activity might have begun last week, according to a NASA scientist.

Solar activity waxes and wanes on an 11-year cycle. During the peak, the last of which occurred in 2001 and 2002, sunspots are common and solar storms frequent. The storms, which pummel Earth with charged particles, can knock out satellites and occasionally disrupt radio and even power transmissions on the planet.

For the full article:

http://www.livescience.com/spa.....le-24.html
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 07, 2008 6:58 pm    Post subject: NOAA: Sunspot is harbinger of new solar cycle, increasing ri Reply with quote

NOAA Research
7 January 2008

NOAA: Sunspot is harbinger of new solar cycle, increasing risk for electrical systems

A new 11-year cycle of heightened solar activity, bringing with it increased risks for power grids, critical military, civilian and airline communications, GPS signals and even cell phones and ATM transactions, showed signs it was on its way late Thursday when the cycle’s first sunspot appeared in the sun’s Northern Hemisphere, NOAA scientists said.

“This sunspot is like the first robin of spring,” said solar physicist Douglas Biesecker of NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center. “In this case, it’s an early omen of solar storms that will gradually increase over the next few years.”

A sunspot is an area of highly organized magnetic activity on the surface of the sun. The new 11-year cycle, called Solar Cycle 24, is expected to build gradually, with the number of sunspots and solar storms reaching a maximum by 2011 or 2012, though devastating storms can occur at any time.

During a solar storm, highly charged material ejected from the sun may head toward Earth, where it can bring down power grids, disrupt critical communications, and threaten astronauts with harmful radiation. Storms can also knock out commercial communications satellites and swamp Global Positioning System signals. Routine activities such as talking on a cell phone or getting money from an ATM machine could suddenly halt over a large part of the globe.

“Our growing dependence on highly sophisticated, space-based technologies means we are far more vulnerable to space weather today than in the past,” said Vice Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Jr., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “NOAA’s space weather monitoring and forecasts are critical for the nation’s ability to function smoothly during solar disturbances.”

Last April, in coordination with an international panel of solar experts, NOAA issued a forecast that Solar Cycle 24 would start in March 2008, plus or minus six months. The panel was evenly split between those predicting a strong or weak cycle. Both camps agree that the sooner the new cycle takes over the waning previous cycle, the more likely that it will be a strong season with many sunspots and major storms, said Biesecker. Many more sunspots with Solar Cycle 24 traits must emerge before scientists consider the new cycle dominant, with the potential for more frequent storms.

The new sunspot, identified as #10,981, is the latest visible spot to appear since NOAA began numbering them on January 5, 1972. Its high-latitude location at 27 degrees North, and its negative polarity leading to the right in the Northern Hemisphere are clear-cut signs of a new solar cycle, according to NOAA experts. The first active regions and sunspots of a new solar cycle can emerge at high latitudes while those from the previous cycle continue to form closer to the equator.

SWPC is the nation’s first alert for solar activity and its affects on Earth. The center’s space weather forecasters issue outlooks for the next 11-year solar “season” and warn of individual storms occurring on the Sun that could impact Earth. SWPC is one of NOAA’s nine National Centers for Environmental Prediction and is also the warning agency of the International Space Environment Service (ISES), a consortium of 11 member nations.


###
NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and information service delivery for transportation, and by providing environmental stewardship of our nation's coastal and marine resources. Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is working with its federal partners, more than 70 countries and the European Commission to develop a global monitoring network that is as integrated as the planet it observes, predicts and protects.

On the Web:

SWPC: http://www.swpc.noaa.gov

Solar Cycle forecast: http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2007/s2847.htm
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 05, 2008 7:32 am    Post subject: Postcards from the edge Reply with quote

Postcards from the edge
By Ron Cowen
July 2nd, 2008


Message from a craft at the solar system's final frontier holds surprises.

There are no signs to announce the edge of the solar system, but when the venerable Voyager 2 spacecraft approached this final frontier last Aug. 31 it was in for quite a shock. So were the scientists who analyzed the data that the craft radioed back to Earth, along with related observations by NASA’s twin Earth-orbiting STEREO spacecraft.


For the full article:

http://sciencenews.org/view/ge.....m_the_edge
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