Topic: NASA’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory
Greenbelt, MD – NASA says as Chile and Argentina witnessed the total solar eclipse on December 14th, 2020, unbeknownst to skywatchers, a little tiny speck was flying past the Sun — a recently discovered comet.
This comet was first spotted in satellite data by Thai amateur astronomer Worachate Boonplod on the NASA-funded Sungrazer Project — a citizen science project that invites anyone to search for and discover new comets in images from the joint European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, or SOHO.
Greenbelt, MD – In late May and early June, Earthlings may be able to glimpse Comet SWAN. The comet is currently faintly visible to the unaided eye in the Southern Hemisphere just before sunrise — providing skywatchers with a relatively rare glimpse of a comet bright enough to be seen without a telescope.
But Comet SWAN’s initial discovery was made not from the ground, but via an instrument on board ESA (the European Space Agency) and NASA’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, or SOHO, satellite.
Written by Lina Tran
Greenbelt, MD – The more solar observatories, the merrier: Scientists have developed new models to see how shocks associated with coronal mass ejections, or CMEs, propagate from the Sun — an effort made possible only by combining data from three NASA satellites to produce a much more robust mapping of a CME than any one could do alone.
Much the way ships form bow waves as they move through water, CMEs set off interplanetary shocks when they erupt from the Sun at extreme speeds, propelling a wave of high-energy particles. These particles can spark space weather events around Earth, endangering spacecraft and astronauts.
Written by Sarah Frazier
Greenbelt, MD – On October 1st, 2014, NASA mission operations lost communication with one of the two spacecraft of the Solar and Terrestrial Relations Observatory, or STEREO, mission, just as the spacecraft was about to orbit around the other side of the sun.
Though they haven’t heard from the Behind spacecraft, also known as STEREO-B, in over a year, the spacecraft has finally emerged into a region where it can once again receive radio signals. Scientists have a plan to get it back—and their chances only get better with time.
Science at NASA
Washington, D.C. – For an astronomer, discovering a comet can be the highlight of a lifetime. Great comets carry the names of their discoverers into history. Comet Halley, Comet Lovejoy, Comet Hale-Bopp are just a few examples….
Imagine the frustration, though, if every time you discovered a comet, it was rapidly destroyed.
Believe it or not, this is what happens almost every day to the most prolific comet hunter of all time.
Written by Tony Phillips
Washington, D.C. – NASA’s extensive fleet of science assets, particularly those orbiting and roving Mars, have front row seats to image and study a once-in-a-lifetime comet flyby on Sunday, October 19th.
Comet C/2013 A1, also known as comet Siding Spring, will pass within about 87,000 miles (139,500 kilometers) of the Red Planet — less than half the distance between Earth and our moon and less than one-tenth the distance of any known comet flyby of Earth.
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 Karen C. Fox
Greenbelt, MD – After several days of continued observations, scientists continue to work to determine and to understand the fate of Comet ISON: There’s no doubt that the comet shrank in size considerably as it rounded the sun and there’s no doubt that something made it out on the other side to shoot back into space.
The question remains as to whether the bright spot seen moving away from the sun was simply debris, or whether a small nucleus of the original ball of ice was still there. Regardless, it is likely that it is now only dust.
Written by Karen C. Fox
Greenbelt, MD – The sun’s atmosphere dances. Giant columns of solar material – made of gas so hot that many of the electrons have been scorched off the atoms, turning it into a form of magnetized matter we call plasma – leap off the sun’s surface, jumping and twisting. Sometimes these prominences of solar material, shoot off, escaping completely into space, other times they fall back down under their own weight.
The prominences are sometimes also the inner structure of a larger formation, appearing from the side almost as the filament inside a large light bulb. The bright structure around and above that light bulb is called a streamer, and the inside “empty” area is called a coronal prominence cavity.
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