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Topic: Karen C. Fox

NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory to move Master Clock up One Second

 

Written by Karen C. Fox
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – On December 31st, 2016, official clocks around the world will add a leap second just before midnight Coordinated Universal Time — which corresponds to 6:59:59pm EST. NASA missions will also have to make the switch, including the Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, which watches the sun 24/7.

Clocks do this to keep in sync with Earth’s rotation, which gradually slows down over time. When the dinosaurs roamed Earth, for example, our globe took only 23 hours to make a complete rotation. In space, millisecond accuracy is crucial to understanding how satellites orbit.

Images from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory — such as this one showing the sun as it appears in wavelengths of extreme ultraviolet light — have a time stamp showing Universal Time on it. To maintain accuracy, SDO will join official clocks around the world in adding a leap second on Dec. 31, 2016. (NASA/SDO)

Images from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory — such as this one showing the sun as it appears in wavelengths of extreme ultraviolet light — have a time stamp showing Universal Time on it. To maintain accuracy, SDO will join official clocks around the world in adding a leap second on Dec. 31, 2016. (NASA/SDO)

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NASA regains communications with STEREO-B spacecraft

 

Written by Karen C. Fox
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – On August 21st, 2016, contact was reestablished with one of NASA’s Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatories, known as the STEREO-B spacecraft, after communications were lost on October 1st, 2014.

Over 22 months, the STEREO team has worked to attempt contact with the spacecraft. Most recently, they have attempted a monthly recovery operation using NASA’s Deep Space Network, or DSN, which tracks and communicates with missions throughout space.

On Aug. 21, 2016, NASA reestablished contact with the sun-watching STEREO-B spacecraft, after communications were lost in October 2014. STEREO-B is one of two spacecraft of the Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory mission, which over the course of their lifetime have viewed the sun from vantage points such as the ones shown here, on the other side of the sun from Earth. This graphic shows the positions of the two STEREO spacecraft and their orbits in relation to Earth, Venus, Mercury and the sun. (NASA)

On Aug. 21, 2016, NASA reestablished contact with the sun-watching STEREO-B spacecraft, after communications were lost in October 2014. STEREO-B is one of two spacecraft of the Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory mission, which over the course of their lifetime have viewed the sun from vantage points such as the ones shown here, on the other side of the sun from Earth. This graphic shows the positions of the two STEREO spacecraft and their orbits in relation to Earth, Venus, Mercury and the sun. (NASA)

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NASA Satellites witness a never before seen Magnetic Reconnection Event

 

Written by Karen C. Fox
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – Like sending sensors up into a hurricane, NASA has flown four spacecraft through an invisible maelstrom in space, called magnetic reconnection. Magnetic reconnection is one of the prime drivers of space radiation and so it is a key factor in the quest to learn more about our space environment and protect our spacecraft and astronauts as we explore farther and farther from our home planet.

Space is a better vacuum than any we can create on Earth, but it does contain some particles — and it’s bustling with activity. It overflows with energy and a complex system of magnetic fields.

The four Magnetospheric Multiscale, or MMS, spacecraft (shown here in an artist's concept) have now made more than 4,000 trips through the boundaries of Earth's magnetic field, gathering observations of our dynamic space environment. (NASA/Goddard/Conceptual Image Lab)

The four Magnetospheric Multiscale, or MMS, spacecraft (shown here in an artist’s concept) have now made more than 4,000 trips through the boundaries of Earth’s magnetic field, gathering observations of our dynamic space environment. (NASA/Goddard/Conceptual Image Lab)

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NASA’s Magnetospheric Multiscale Probe set to launch March 12th

 

Written by Karen C. Fox
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – The Magnetospheric Multiscale, or MMS, mission is scheduled to launch into space on March 12th, 2015. The mission consists of four spacecraft to observe a phenomenon called magnetic reconnection — which doesn’t happen naturally on Earth all that often, but is a regular occurrence in space.

At the heart of magnetic reconnection is a fundamental physics process in which magnetic field lines come together and explosively realign, often sending the particles in the area flying off near the speed of light.

Solar flares – such as this one captured by NASA's SDO on July 12, 2012, are initiated by a phenomenon called magnetic reconnection. (NASA/SDO)

Solar flares – such as this one captured by NASA’s SDO on July 12, 2012, are initiated by a phenomenon called magnetic reconnection. (NASA/SDO)

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NASA reports NOAA to launch Deep Space Climate Observatory to measure the Sun’s Solar Wind

 

Written by Karen C. Fox
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – There’s a fascinating spot some 932,000 miles away from Earth where the gravity between the sun and Earth is perfectly balanced. This spot captures the attention of orbital engineers because a satellite can orbit this spot, called Lagrange 1 just as they can orbit a planet.

But the spot tantalizes scientists as well: Lagrange 1 lies outside Earth’s magnetic environment, a perfect place to measure the constant stream of particles from the sun, known as the solar wind, as they pass by.

In early February, the United States Air Force will launch a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) satellite called Deep Space Climate Observatory, or DSCOVR, into orbit around this spot.

The solar arrays on NOAA’s Deep Space Climate Observatory spacecraft, or DSCOVR, are unfurled in the Building 1 high bay at the Astrotech payload processing facility in Titusville, Florida, near Kennedy Space Center. (NASA/Ben Smegelsky)

The solar arrays on NOAA’s Deep Space Climate Observatory spacecraft, or DSCOVR, are unfurled in the Building 1 high bay at the Astrotech payload processing facility in Titusville, Florida, near Kennedy Space Center. (NASA/Ben Smegelsky)

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NASA’s Van Allen Probes discover Impenetrable Barrier in Radiation Belts

 

Written by Karen C. Fox
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – Two donuts of seething radiation that surround Earth, called the Van Allen radiation belts, have been found to contain a nearly impenetrable barrier that prevents the fastest, most energetic electrons from reaching Earth.

The Van Allen belts are a collection of charged particles, gathered in place by Earth’s magnetic field. They can wax and wane in response to incoming energy from the sun, sometimes swelling up enough to expose satellites in low-Earth orbit to damaging radiation.

A cloud of cold, charged gas around Earth, called the plasmasphere and seen here in purple, interacts with the particles in Earth's radiation belts — shown in grey— to create an impenetrable barrier that blocks the fastest electrons from moving in closer to our planet. (NASA/Goddard)

A cloud of cold, charged gas around Earth, called the plasmasphere and seen here in purple, interacts with the particles in Earth’s radiation belts — shown in grey— to create an impenetrable barrier that blocks the fastest electrons from moving in closer to our planet. (NASA/Goddard)

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NASA keeps an eye on Largest Sunspot in 24 years

 

Written by Karen C. Fox
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – An active region on the sun – an area of intense and complex magnetic fields – rotated into view on October 18th, 2014. Labeled AR 12192, it soon grew into the largest such region in 24 years, and fired off 10 sizable solar flares as it traversed across the face of the sun.

The region was so large it could be seen without a telescope for those looking at the sun with eclipse glasses, as many did during a partial eclipse of the sun on October 23rd.

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NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory sees Giant Sunspot erupting more Solar Flares from the Sun

 

Written by Karen C. Fox
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – The sun emitted a mid-level solar flare, an M6.6-class, peaking at 11:32pm EDT on October 28th, 2014 – the latest in a series of substantial flares from a giant active region on the sun that first erupted with a significant solar flare on October 19th.

NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, which constantly observes the sun, captured images of the event.

To see how this event may affect Earth, please visit NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center at http://spaceweather.gov , the U.S. government’s official source for space weather forecasts, alerts, watches and warnings.

A large active region erupts with a mid-level flare, an M6.6-class, in this image from NASA's SDO on the night of Oct. 27, 2014. The region will soon rotate over the right horizon of the sun and will no longer be facing Earth. (NASA/SDO)

A large active region erupts with a mid-level flare, an M6.6-class, in this image from NASA’s SDO on the night of Oct. 27, 2014. The region will soon rotate over the right horizon of the sun and will no longer be facing Earth. (NASA/SDO)

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NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory captures images of Mid-level Solar Flare from the Sun

 

Written by Karen C. Fox
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – The sun emitted a mid-level solar flare, peaking at 3:01pm EDT on October 2nd, 2014. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, which watches the sun 24-hours a day, captured images of the flare. Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation.

Harmful radiation from a flare cannot pass through Earth’s atmosphere to physically affect humans on the ground, however — when intense enough — they can disturb the atmosphere in the layer where GPS and communications signals travel.

NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory captured this image of a solar flare on Oct. 2nd, 2014. The solar flare is the bright flash of light on the right limb of the sun. A burst of solar material erupting out into space can be seen just below it. (NASA/SDO)

NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory captured this image of a solar flare on Oct. 2nd, 2014. The solar flare is the bright flash of light on the right limb of the sun. A burst of solar material erupting out into space can be seen just below it. (NASA/SDO)

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NASA’s Messenger Satellite discovers Space Weather Anomaly at the Planet Mercury

 

Written by Karen C. Fox
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – The solar wind of particles streaming off the sun helps drive flows and swirls in space as complicated as any terrestrial weather pattern. Scientists have now spotted at planet Mercury, for the first time, a classic space weather event called a hot flow anomaly, or HFA, which has previously been spotted at Earth, Venus, Saturn and Mars.

“Planets have a bow shock the same way a supersonic jet does,” said Vadim Uritsky at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “These hot flow anomalies are made of very hot solar wind deflected off the bow shock.”

The yellow color shows the standing bow shock in front of Mercury. The signature of material flowing in a vastly different direction than the solar wind -- an HFA – can be seen in red at the lower left. (NASA/Duberstein)

The yellow color shows the standing bow shock in front of Mercury. The signature of material flowing in a vastly different direction than the solar wind — an HFA – can be seen in red at the lower left. (NASA/Duberstein)

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