Tag Archives: Sun

NASA To Launch New Investigations Of The Sun

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. A small car-sized spacecraft will plunge directly into the sun’s atmosphere approximately four million miles from our star’s surface.

“For the very first time, we’ll be able to touch, taste and smell our sun.”

Lika Guhathakurta

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.

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, according to sciencedaily.com.

“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? “ says 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.”

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.

Read the full post at Econotwist’s Blog.

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NASA To Launch New Investigations Of The Sun

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. A small car-sized spacecraft will plunge directly into the sun’s atmosphere approximately four million miles from our star’s surface.

“For the very first time, we’ll be able to touch, taste and smell our sun.”

Lika Guhathakurta


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.

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, according to sciencedaily.com.

“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? “ says 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.”

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 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 will also provide 3-D images of solar wind 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 monitor electrons, protons and ions that are accelerated to high energies in the sun’s atmosphere.
  • 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,” says 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, and 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 responsible for formulating, implementing and operating the Solar Probe Mission.

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

Related by the Econotwist:

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Expert: Sun Storm To Hit With Force Of 100 million H-Bombs

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NASA Discover New Form Of Space Weather; Has Power Of Earthquake

NASA: Solar Tsunami To Hit Earth, Tuesday

Siberian Shaman: 2012 Solar Storms Will Trigger Collapse Of The West

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When Will God Destroy Our Money?

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Expert: Sun Storm To Hit With Force Of 100 million H-Bombs

As reported earlier here at the Econotwist’s Blog; after 10 years of comparative slumber, the sun is waking up and astronomers are on full alert. This week several US media outlets reported that scientists once again are warning about a massive solar storm building that has the potential to wipe out the entire planet’s power grid – and possible even worse.

“The super storm will hit like a bolt of lightning, causing catastrophic consequences for the world’s health, emergency services and national security unless precautions are taken.”

Richard Fisher


NASA scientists have tried to pinpoint the time of impact, and has in earlier statements set the date to late 2011, or early 2012. NASA have later withdraw their time estimates, saying the storm could be 100 years away – or just 100 days. However, an Australian astronomer says the space community is betting on the sooner scenario, rather than the later.

The massive solar flare that caused spectacular light shows on Earth earlier this month was just a precursor to what is about to unfold.

The question right now is when.

Here is the facts:

NASA is now saying the Solar Max storm could be “100 years away or just 100 days.”
However, an Australian astronomer says the space community is betting on the sooner scenario, rather than the later, the Australian news.com.au reports.

NASA has been watching out for this storm since 2006 and reports from the US this week claim the storms could hit on that most “Hollywood” of disaster dates; 2012.

Similar storms back in 1859 and 1921 caused worldwide chaos, wiping out telegraph wires on a massive scale.

The 2012 storm has the potential to be even more disruptive.

The Most Violent In 100 Years

“The general consensus among general astronomers – and certainly solar astronomers – is that this coming Solar maximum will be the most violent in 100 years,” astronomy lecturer and columnist Dave Reneke says.

Reneke predicts the solar storm to hit the Earth in 2012, or possibly later into 2013.

A bold statement and one taken seriously by those it will affect most, namely airline companies, communications companies and anyone working with modern GPS systems, news.com.au writes.

“They can even trip circuit breakers and knock out orbiting satellites, as has already been done this year,” Dave Reneke says.

Regardless, the point astronomers are making is it doesn’t matter if the next Solar Max isn’t the worst in history, or even as bad as the 1859 storms.

It’s the fact that there hasn’t been one since the mid-80s. Commodore had just launched the Amiga and the only digital storm making the news was Tetris.

No one really knows what effect the 2012-2013 Solar Max will have on today’s digital-reliant society.

In an interview, Dr Richard Fisher, director of NASA’s Heliophysics division, told Mr Reneke the super storm would hit like “a bolt of lightning”, causing catastrophic consequences for the world’s health, emergency services and national security unless precautions are taken.

Trillion Dollar Disaster

US government officials earlier this year took part in a “tabletop exercise” in Boulder, Colorado, to map out what might happen if the Earth was hit with a storm as intense as the 1859 and 1921 storms.

The 1859 storm was of a similar size to that predicted by NASA to hit within the next three years – one of decreased activity, but more powerful eruptions.

NASA says that a recent report by the National Academy of Sciences found that if a similar storm occurred today, it could cause $1 to 2 trillion in damages to society’s high-tech infrastructure and require four to 10 years for complete recovery.

Staff at the Space Weather Prediction Center in Colorado, which hosted the exercise, said with our reliance on satellite technology, such an event could hit the Earth with the magnitude of a global hurricane or earthquake.

The reason for the concern comes as the sun enters a phase known as Solar Cycle 24.

100 Million Hydrogen Bombs

All the alarming news building around the event is being fueled by two things.

The first is a book by disaster expert Lawrence E. Joseph, Guilty of Apocalypse; “The Case Against 2012,” in which he claims the hurricane Katrina for the Earth may cause unprecedented planet-wide upheaval.

The second is a theory that claims sunspots travel through the sun on a conveyor belt similar to the Great Ocean Conveyor Belt which controls weather on Earth.

The belt carries magnetic fields through the sun. When they hit the surface, they explode as sunspots. Weakened, they then travel back through the sun’s core to recharge.

It all happens on a rough 40-50-year cycle, according to solar physicist David Hathaway of the National Space Science and Technology Center in the US.

He says when the belt speeds up, lots of magnetic fields are collected, which points to more intense future activity.

“The belt was turning fast in 1986-1996,” Professor Hathaway says.

“Old magnetic fields swept up then should reappear as big sunspots in 2010-2011.”

Most experts agree, although those who put the date of Solar Max in 2012 are getting the most press.

They claim satellites will be aged by 50 years, rendering GPS even more useless than ever, and the blast will have the equivalent energy of 100 million hydrogen bombs.

“We know it is coming but we don’t know how bad it is going to be,” Dr Fisher told Mr Reneke in the recent issue of Australasian Science.

“Systems will just not work. The flares change the magnetic field on the Earth and it’s rapid, just like a lightning bolt. That’s the solar effect,” Fisher says.

Related by the Econotwist:

NASA Prepares For Impact – Nasty Space Weather Ahead

NASA: Solar Tsunami To Hit Earth, Tuesday

Siberian Shaman: 2012 Solar Storms Will Trigger Collapse Of The West

When Will God Destroy Our Money?

The Sun Is Speaking!

NASA Discover New Form Of Space Weather; Has Power Of Earthquake

The Earth: A Danger Zone

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