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Studying The Secrets Of The Sun and Beyond

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posted on Jan, 18 2010 @ 11:40 PM
Note for MODS - should be in Space Exploration..Sorry!

Hi all came across this interesting article about some of the upcoming Study that is about to happen regarding our Sun. With advances in technology for studying our sun, and huge debate about Climate Change, there has been much more interest lately in whats going on here.

All life on planet Earth owes its existence to the sun. The sun's rays are where we derive our vitamin D and where most plants get their energy to go through photosynthesis. It was worshipped as a deity by ancient cultures and its power is now harnessed as a source of renewable energy

The sun is a star at the center of our solar system. Its mass makes up more than 99 percent of the mass of our solar system and is 109 times the size of the planet we call home. More than 1.3 million Earths could comfortably fit inside the sun. Its core can reach temperatures of 27 million degrees Fahrenheit

With all that we now know about this bright star, there are still many areas of the sun that are an enigma to us.

New Mexico's climate and clear skies make it an ideal location for stellar and solar observations, and scientists around the globe are taking advantage and employing the expertise of local researchers in finding out everything they can about the sun - from the inside out.

"I think New Mexico is really coming of age in the field of astronomy in terms of what is happening at our individual campus and what is happening with our national and international collaborations," said Bernie McNamara, professor in New Mexico State University's Department of Astronomy. "We are actually at the stage now where New Mexico institutions are being sought out as collaborators."

NASA is about to launch a 15-year mission to study the sun continuously through satellites and telescopes and NMSU is set to play an integral part in interpreting the data collected from the instruments.

From a single, ground-based telescope, the sun cannot be viewed once it sets, creating gaps in data collection. The main aspect of the soon-to-be-launched multi-billion dollar Solar Dynamic Observatory satellite is that it will allow the sun to be viewed continuously, said Jason Jackiewicz, assistant professor of astronomy at NMSU.

Researchers will use state-of-the-art instruments to study the oscillations on the surface of the sun as well as seismic data that will look inside the sun in order to find the source of solar events.

"The mission is designed to understand the magnetic sun," Jackiewicz said. "We are trying to predict when and where a sunspot will pop through the surface of the sun. If we can do that, it might give us an idea of how we can predict solar flares and other mass ejections."

Jackiewicz earned a spot on the SDO team, charged with setting up a data analysis pipeline to detect magnetic structures beneath the surface of the sun.
"This satellite will provide us with the best data, by far, that we have seen in a long time," Jackiewicz said.

Astronomers at NMSU also are using grants from NASA and the National Science Foundation to help predict space weather in order to prevent damage done by solar magnetic storms to space-based and ground-based electronic facilities.
The National Solar Observatory, which has observation sites at Sacramento Peak in Sunspot, N.M., and at Kitt Peak in Tucson, Ariz., is consolidating its operations in anticipation of a new telescope based in Hawaii called the Advanced Technology Solar Telescope. When it is completed, the ATST will have the ability to study the smallest spatial features of the sun.

A second major new solar project that New Mexico may well play a role in is called the Stellar Oscillation Network Group. Led by a group of Danish institutions it aims to build eight telescopes around the world so that stars can be viewed continuously.

NMSU, in collaboration with other institutions, has applied for funding from NSF's Major Research Instrumentation Program to place one of these new telescopes at the Apache Point Observatory, in Sunspot.

SONG is fundamentally different from other kinds of solar missions because its telescopes will measure stellar oscillations through the motion of the star's surface. This will be done with a precision not before possible, McNamara said.

"The science behind this project is really unprecedented," Jackiewicz said.
The Air Force Research Laboratory is working to relocate its Space Weather Center of Excellence to New Mexico from Massachusetts. The AFRL is a major force in the state in solar and stellar research and its scientists are interested in teaming with an institution in New Mexico to continue their work.

McNamara said officials have spoken to researchers at the University of New Mexico and also plan to speak to researchers at NMSU to be a part of the partnership.

At NMSU, the 21st Century Space and Aerospace Cluster - made up of members from the astronomy, computer science, electrical and computer engineering, mechanical and aerospace engineering and physics departments and the Physical Science Laboratory - works to promote space-related education and research at the university.

The NSF has awarded several grants in New Mexico that focus on solar research, including projects at Los Alamos National Laboratory, UNM and NSO, where graduate students from NMSU and other universities work under the mentorship of renowned scientists.

"Within New Mexico, we are gaining a strong national and international reputation in the field of solar physics that makes us an attractive partner," McNamara said.
As interest in the sun and its impact on Earth continues to increase, New Mexico is donning its sunshades and doing everything it can to stay at the forefront of revolutionary solar research

The Solar Dynamic Observatory satellite (SDO)

is launching in 20 days time and it should yield lots of results about exactly how the Sun influences the Earth.

lots more information on the whole mission can be found here -

Stellar Oscillation Network Group (SONG)

Sounds like a really exciting project also. A Global Network of Telescopes which will study stars over Weeks or Months of continuous time in great detail.


and also -

to search for and characterize planets with masses comparable to the Earth in orbit around nearby stars

Lots more information about the S.O.N.G Project can be found here also -


Looks like we will be seeing some very interesting results over the coming years about our Sun , other Stars and Earth like Planets.

We certainly are living in a very exciting time for finding out amazing things both wthin and outwith our solar System and missions like these will i'm sure provide some awesome results in the very near future...

Stay Tuned!!!


[edit on 18-1-2010 by grantbeed]

posted on Jan, 19 2010 @ 12:14 AM
Because of our ever increasing reliance on satellite technology for communications and navigation we are becoming more and more vulnerable to the vagaries of space weather. The extent of our power grids, also at risk from geomagnetic storms, has expanded tremendously in the past century.

Like building a home in a flood plain, our dependence on electricity and electronics has put us in a precarious position. A greater understanding of what makes the Sun tick has become crucial. With SOHO, STEREO, ACE, and other satellites we have hugely increased our knowledge about our star but there is far more that we do not know, that we need to know.

posted on Jan, 19 2010 @ 12:49 AM
reply to post by Phage

I agree Phage, we just need to look back in History to see the effects Solar Storms can have, and this was at a time when we had nothing like the sophisticated Technology we have now!

Even 144 years ago, many of Earth's inhabitants realized something momentous had just occurred. Within hours, telegraph wires in both the United States and Europe spontaneously shorted out, causing numerous fires

Back in 1859 the invention of the telegraph was only 15 years old and society's electrical framework was truly in its infancy.

A 1994 solar storm caused major malfunctions to two communications satellites, disrupting newspaper, network television and nationwide radio service throughout Canada.

Other storms have affected systems ranging from cell phone service and TV signals to GPS systems and electrical power grids. In March 1989, a solar storm much less intense than the perfect space storm of 1859 caused the Hydro-Quebec (Canada) power grid to go down for over nine hours, and the resulting damages and loss in revenue were estimated to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars

[edit on 19-1-2010 by grantbeed]

posted on Jan, 19 2010 @ 12:55 AM
reply to post by Phage

Explanation: RE: "A greater understanding of what makes the Sun tick has become crucial. With SOHO, STEREO, ACE, and other satellites we have hugely increased our knowledge about our star but there is far more that we do not know, that we need to know."

And I posed a question on one of those unknowns about the Sun as regards its albedo on this thread Light reflection upon the sun and stars! Stellar albedo??? [ATS]

S&F for the OP'er and St*r for you!

Personal Disclosure: It desperately needs you to deny any ignorance I was promoting!

posted on Jan, 19 2010 @ 01:06 AM
[edit on 19-1-2010 by grantbeed]

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