Topic: Magnetic Field
Written by Tony Phillips
Washington, D.C. – If an asteroid big enough to knock modern civilization back to the 18th century appeared out of deep space and buzzed the Earth-Moon system, the near-miss would be instant worldwide headline news.
Two years ago, Earth experienced a close shave just as perilous, but most newspapers didn’t mention it. The “impactor” was an extreme solar storm, the most powerful in as much as 150+ years.
“If it had hit, we would still be picking up the pieces,” says Daniel Baker of the University of Colorado.
Written by Francis Reddy
The pulsar’s radio beacon vanished, while at the same time the system brightened fivefold in gamma rays, the most powerful form of light, according to measurements by NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope.
Written by Dr. Tony Phillips
Washington, D.C. – Years ago, in 2008 and 2009 an eerie quiet descended on the sun. Sunspot counts dropped to historically-low levels and solar flares ceased altogether. As the longest and deepest solar minimum in a century unfolded, bored solar physicists wondered when “Solar Max” would ever return.
They can stop wondering. “It’s back,” says Dean Pesnell of the Goddard Space Flight Center. “Solar Max has arrived.”
Written by Claire Saravia
Greenbelt, MD – This past November, NASA launched the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission in the hope of understanding how and why the planet has been losing its atmosphere over billions of years.
One instrument aboard the spacecraft will study a special component of the Martian atmosphere to help solve this mystery. By studying ions, or small electrically charged particles, in and above the Red Planet’s tenuous atmosphere, the Solar Wind Ion Analyzer will help answer why Mars has gradually lost much of its atmosphere, developing into a frozen, barren planet.
Written by Whitney Clavin
Pasadena, CA – A new image from the Planck space telescope reveals the magnetic field lines of our Milky Way galaxy. The fingerprint-like map allows astronomers to study the structure of the magnetic field and better understand the process of star formation.
The image, compiled from the first all-sky observations of polarized light emitted by interstellar dust in the Milky Way, is available here.
Written by Geoff Brown / Karen C. Fox
Greenbelt, MD – Scientists have discovered a new, persistent structure in one of two radiation belts surrounding Earth. NASA’s twin Van Allen Probes spacecraft have shown that high-energy electrons in the inner radiation belt display a persistent pattern that resembles slanted zebra stripes.
Surprisingly, this structure is produced by the slow rotation of Earth, previously considered incapable of affecting the motion of radiation belt particles, which have velocities approaching the speed of light.
Written by Whitney Clavin
Pasadena, CA – Astronomers say that magnetic storms in the gas orbiting young stars may explain a mystery that has persisted since before 2006.
Researchers using NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope to study developing stars have had a hard time figuring out why the stars give off more infrared light than expected. The planet-forming disks that circle the young stars are heated by starlight and glow with infrared light, but Spitzer detected additional infrared light coming from an unknown source.
Written by Jia-Rui C. Cook
Pasadena, CA – Water vapor above the frigid south polar region of Jupiter’s moon Europa has observed by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, providing the first strong evidence of water plumes erupting off the moon’s surface.
Previous scientific findings from other sources already point to the existence of an ocean located under Europa’s icy crust. Researchers are not yet fully certain whether the detected water vapor is generated by erupting water plumes on the surface, but they are confident this is the most likely explanation.
Written by Tony Phillips
Washington, D.C. – Something big is about to happen on the sun. According to measurements from NASA-supported observatories, the sun’s vast magnetic field is about to flip.
“It looks like we’re no more than three to four months away from a complete field reversal,” said solar physicist Todd Hoeksema of Stanford University. “This change will have ripple effects throughout the solar system.”
Written Dr. Tony Phillips
Washington, D.C. – If you have a smartphone, take it out and run your fingers along the glass surface. It’s cool to the touch, incredibly thin and strong, and almost impervious to scratching. You’re now in contact with a “smart material.”
Smart materials don’t occur naturally. Instead, they are designed by human engineers working at the molecular level to produce substances made-to-order for futuristic applications.
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