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NASA’s ARTEMIS mission data suggests Moon Swirls created by Solar Wind, Magnetic Field

 

Written by Sarah Frazier
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – Every object, planet or person traveling through space has to contend with the Sun’s damaging radiation — and the Moon has the scars to prove it.

Research using data from NASA’s ARTEMIS mission — short for Acceleration, Reconnection, Turbulence and Electrodynamics of the Moon’s Interaction with the Sun — suggests how the solar wind and the Moon’s crustal magnetic fields work together to give the Moon a distinctive pattern of darker and lighter swirls.

Research using data from NASA's ARTEMIS mission suggests that lunar swirls, like the Reiner Gamma lunar swirl imaged here by NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, could be the result of solar wind interactions with the Moon's isolated pockets of magnetic field. (NASA LRO WAC science team)

Research using data from NASA’s ARTEMIS mission suggests that lunar swirls, like the Reiner Gamma lunar swirl imaged here by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, could be the result of solar wind interactions with the Moon’s isolated pockets of magnetic field. (NASA LRO WAC science team)

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NASA’s Parker Solar Probe now holds record for Closest Spacecraft to Sun

 

Written by Sarah Frazier
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – The NASA Parker Solar Probe now holds the record for closest approach to the Sun by a human-made object. The spacecraft passed the current record of 26.55 million miles from the Sun’s surface on October 29th, 2018, at about 12:04pm CEDT, as calculated by the Parker Solar Probe team.

The previous record for closest solar approach was set by the German-American Helios 2 spacecraft in April 1976. As the NASA Parker Solar Probe mission progresses, the spacecraft will repeatedly break its own records, with a final close approach of 3.83 million miles from the Sun’s surface expected in 2024.

NASA's Parker Solar Probe became the closest-ever spacecraft to the Sun on October 29th, 2018, when it passed within 26.55 million miles of the Sun’s surface. (NASA/JHUAPL)

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe became the closest-ever spacecraft to the Sun on October 29th, 2018, when it passed within 26.55 million miles of the Sun’s surface. (NASA/JHUAPL)

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NASA Counts Down to ICON Spacecraft Launch

 

Written by Sarah Frazier
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – In October 2018, NASA is launching the Ionospheric Connection Explorer, or ICON, to study Earth’s dynamic interface to space.

Its combination of remote and in situ measurements will help scientists better understand this region — and how it changes in response to both space weather from above and terrestrial weather from below, a dynamic mix that can affect our communications, satellites and astronauts.

ICON Spacecraft's orbit. (NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio)

ICON Spacecraft’s orbit. (NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio)

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NASA’s Parker Solar Probe set to launch August 6th

 

Written by Sarah Frazier
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – Early on an August morning, the sky near Cape Canaveral, Florida, will light up with the launch of Parker Solar Probe. No earlier than August 6th, 2018, a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy will thunder to space carrying the car-sized spacecraft, which will study the Sun closer than any human-made object ever has.

On July 20th, 2018, Nicky Fox, Parker Solar Probe’s project scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab in Laurel, Maryland, and Alex Young, associate director for science in the Heliophysics Science Division at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, introduced Parker Solar Probe’s science goals and the technology behind them at a televised press conference from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Illustration of NASA’s Parker Solar Probe leaving Earth. (NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Steve Gribben)

Illustration of NASA’s Parker Solar Probe leaving Earth. (NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Steve Gribben)

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NASA Sounding Rocket finds signatures of Tiny Solar Flares

 

Written by Sarah Frazier
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – Like most solar sounding rockets, the second flight of the FOXSI instrument – short for Focusing Optics X-ray Solar Imager – lasted 15 minutes, with just six minutes of data collection. But in that short time, the cutting-edge instrument found the best evidence to date of a phenomenon scientists have been seeking for years: signatures of tiny solar flares that could help explain the mysterious extreme heating of the Sun’s outer atmosphere. 

FOXSI detected a type of light called hard X-rays – whose wavelengths are much shorter than the light humans can see – which is a signature of extremely hot solar material, around 18 million degrees Fahrenheit.

The NASA-funded FOXSI instrument captured new evidence of small solar flares, called nanoflares, during its December 2014 flight on a suborbital sounding rocket. Nanoflares could help explain why the Sun’s atmosphere, the corona, is so much hotter than the surface. Here, FOXSI’s observations of hard X-rays are shown in blue, superimposed over a soft X-ray image of the Sun from JAXA and NASA’s Hinode solar-observing satellite. (JAXA/NASA/Hinode/FOXSI)

The NASA-funded FOXSI instrument captured new evidence of small solar flares, called nanoflares, during its December 2014 flight on a suborbital sounding rocket. Nanoflares could help explain why the Sun’s atmosphere, the corona, is so much hotter than the surface. Here, FOXSI’s observations of hard X-rays are shown in blue, superimposed over a soft X-ray image of the Sun from JAXA and NASA’s Hinode solar-observing satellite. (JAXA/NASA/Hinode/FOXSI)

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NASA along with European Space Agency observe how Solar Storms move through Space

 

Written by Sarah Frazier
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – Our Sun is active: Not only does it release a constant stream of material, called the solar wind, but it also lets out occasional bursts of faster-moving material, known as coronal mass ejections, or CMEs.

NASA researchers wish to improve our understanding of CMEs and how they move through space because they can interact with the magnetic field around Earth, affecting satellites, interfering with GPS signals, triggering auroras, and — in extreme cases — straining power grids.

While we track CMEs with a number of instruments, the sheer size of the solar system means that our observations are limited, and usually taken from a distance.

ESA and NASA’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory observed a coronal mass ejection erupting from the Sun on Oct. 14, 2014. Scientists went on to track this coronal mass ejection through the solar system using 10 NASA and ESA spacecraft. (The bright light appearing at roughly 2 o'clock is the planet Mercury.) (ESA/NASA/SOHO)

ESA and NASA’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory observed a coronal mass ejection erupting from the Sun on Oct. 14, 2014. Scientists went on to track this coronal mass ejection through the solar system using 10 NASA and ESA spacecraft. (The bright light appearing at roughly 2 o’clock is the planet Mercury.) (ESA/NASA/SOHO)

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2017 Total Solar Eclipse will give NASA Unique Opportunity to study the Earth

 

Written by Sarah Frazier
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – The first total solar eclipse in the continental United States in nearly 40 years takes place on August 21st, 2017. Beyond providing a brilliant sight in the daytime sky, total solar eclipses provide a rare chance for scientists to collect data only available during eclipses. NASA is funding 11 scientific studies that will take advantage of this opportunity.  

“When the moon blocks out the sun during a total eclipse, those regions of Earth that are in the direct path of totality become dark as night for almost three minutes,” said Steve Clarke, director of the Heliophysics Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. “This will be one of the best-observed eclipses to date, and we plan to take advantage of this unique opportunity to learn as much as we can about the sun and its effects on Earth.”

The total solar eclipse of Aug. 21, 2017, stretches across the U.S. from coast to coast, providing scientists with a unique opportunity to study the eclipse from different vantage points. (NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio)

The total solar eclipse of Aug. 21, 2017, stretches across the U.S. from coast to coast, providing scientists with a unique opportunity to study the eclipse from different vantage points. (NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio)

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NASA’s Van Allen Probes data reveals new insights into Earth’s Radiation Belts

 

Written by Sarah Frazier
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – About 600 miles from Earth’s surface is the first of two donut-shaped electron swarms, known as the Van Allen Belts, or the radiation belts. Understanding the shape and size of the belts, which can shrink and swell in response to incoming radiation from the sun, is crucial for protecting our technology in space.

The harsh radiation isn’t good for satellites’ health, so scientists wish to know just which orbits could be jeopardized in different situations.

NASA’s Van Allen Probes artist concept. (NASA)

NASA’s Van Allen Probes artist concept. (NASA)

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NASA Mission Operations works to Reestablish Communications with it’s STEREO-B Spacecraft

 

Written by Sarah Frazier
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, 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.

NASA lost communications with it's STEREO-B Spacecraft on October 1st, 2014 as it began to orbit the other side of the sun. It has now emerged from behind the sun and NASA mission operations hopes that communications cab be reestablish with the spacecraft. (NASA)

NASA lost communications with it’s STEREO-B Spacecraft on October 1st, 2014 as it began to orbit the other side of the sun. It has now emerged from behind the sun and NASA mission operations hopes that communications cab be reestablish with the spacecraft. (NASA)

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NASA discovers low-energy electrons play role in Pulsating Auroras

 

Written by Sarah Frazier
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – Thanks to a lucky conjunction of two satellites, a ground-based array of all-sky cameras, and some spectacular aurora borealis, researchers have uncovered evidence for an unexpected role that electrons have in creating the dancing auroras. Though humans have been seeing auroras for thousands of years, we have only recently begun to understand what causes them.

In this study, published in the Journal of Geophysical Research, scientists compared ground-based videos of pulsating auroras—a certain type of aurora that appears as patches of brightness regularly flickering on and off—with satellite measurements of the numbers and energies of electrons raining down towards the surface from inside Earth’s magnetic bubble, the magnetosphere.

This image of a colorful aurora was taken in Delta Junction, Alaska, on April 10, 2015. All auroras are created by energetic electrons, which rain down from Earth’s magnetic bubble and interact with particles in the upper atmosphere to create glowing lights that stretch across the sky. (Image courtesy of Sebastian Saarloos)

This image of a colorful aurora was taken in Delta Junction, Alaska, on April 10, 2015. All auroras are created by energetic electrons, which rain down from Earth’s magnetic bubble and interact with particles in the upper atmosphere to create glowing lights that stretch across the sky. (Image courtesy of Sebastian Saarloos)

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