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Topic: Sunspots

NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope sees stars spinning like Dancers in Pleiades Cluster

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Like cosmic ballet dancers, the stars of the Pleiades cluster are spinning. But these celestial dancers are all twirling at different speeds. Astronomers have long wondered what determines the rotation rates of these stars.

By watching these stellar dancers, NASA’s Kepler space telescope during its K2 mission has helped amass the most complete catalog of rotation periods for stars in a cluster. This information can help astronomers gain insight into where and how planets form around these stars, and how such stars evolve.

This image shows the famous Pleiades cluster of stars as seen through the eyes of WISE, or NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA)

This image shows the famous Pleiades cluster of stars as seen through the eyes of WISE, or NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA)

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover observes Sunspots on the face of the Sun

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – While busily investigating bedrock types on Mars’ Mount Sharp and preparing for a drill test, NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has also been looking up frequently to monitor sunspots on the face of the sun that is turned away from Earth.

Large sunspots are evident in views from Curiosity’s Mast Camera (Mastcam). Scientists temporarily have no other resource providing views of the sun from the opposite side of the solar system from Earth. The sun completes a rotation about once a month — faster near its equator than near its poles.

An eruption from the surface of the sun is conspicuous in the lower left portion of this July 6, 2015, image from NASA's Earth-orbiting Solar Dynamics Observatory. (Image credit: NASA)

An eruption from the surface of the sun is conspicuous in the lower left portion of this July 6, 2015, image from NASA’s Earth-orbiting Solar Dynamics Observatory. (Image credit: NASA)

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NASA’s AcrimSat spacecraft has quit responding after 14 years of service

 

Written by Alan Buis
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – After 14 years of monitoring Earth’s main energy source, radiation from the sun, NASA’s Active Cavity Radiometer Irradiance Monitor satellite has lost contact with its ground operations team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, and its mission has been declared completed.

AcrimSat’s ACRIM 3 instrument was the third in a series of satellite experiments that have contributed to a critical data set for understanding Earth’s climate: the 36-year, continuous satellite record of variations in total solar radiation reaching Earth, or total solar irradiance.

Artist's rendering of the AcrimSat spacecraft. (NASA)

Artist’s rendering of the AcrimSat spacecraft. (NASA)

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover captures images of the planet Mercury passing in front of the Sun

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has imaged the planet Mercury passing in front of the sun, visible as a faint darkening that moves across the face of the sun.

This is the first transit of the sun by a planet observed from any planet other than Earth, and also the first imaging of Mercury from Mars.

Mercury fills only about one-sixth of one pixel as seen from such great distance, so the darkening does not have a distinct shape, but its position follows Mercury’s expected path based on orbital calculations.

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NASA reports Mini Halloween Storms of 2013

 

Written by Dr. Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Ten years ago, in late October 2003, space weather forecasters experienced a frission of dread when two gigantic sunspots appeared. Both had complex magnetic fields that harbored energy for strong explosions. If the spots turned toward Earth and erupted….

That’s exactly what happened. From October 19th through November 7th 2003, there were 17 major eruptions on the sun, including a record-setting X28 flare.

An X2-class solar flare recorded by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory on Sept. 29, 2013.

An X2-class solar flare recorded by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory on Sept. 29, 2013.

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NASA reports this years Solar Max of the Sun could be Double Peaked

 

Written by Dr. Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Something unexpected is happening on the sun. 2013 is supposed to be the year of Solar Max, the peak of the 11-year sunspot cycle. Yet 2013 has arrived and solar activity is relatively low. Sunspot numbers are well below their values in 2011, and strong solar flares have been infrequent for many months.

The quiet has led some observers to wonder if forecasters missed the mark. Solar physicist Dean Pesnell of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center has a different explanation:

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United Nations forum places Space Weather on the Agenda

 

Written by Dr. Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Rewind to the late 1950s. The Soviet Union had just launched the first artificial satellite, Sputnik. The United States, caught short, was scrambling to catch up, kick-starting a Cold War space race that would last for decades.  Space was up for grabs, and it seemed like anything could happen.

Into this void stepped the United Nations. In 1958, the General Assembly “recognizing the common interest of mankind in furthering the peaceful use of outer space … and desiring to avoid the extension of present national rivalries into this new field….” established the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS).

The UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNCOPUOS). (Credit: UN Information Service)

The UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNCOPUOS). (Credit: UN Information Service)

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The Secret Lives of Solar Flares

 

Written by Dr. Tony Phillips
Science@NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – One hundred and fifty two years ago, a man in England named Richard Carrington discovered solar flares. 

It happened at 11:18am on the cloudless morning of Thursday, September 1st, 1859. Just as usual on every sunny day, the 33-year-old solar astronomer was busy in his private observatory, projecting an image of the sun onto a screen and sketching what he saw. On that particular morning, he traced the outlines of an enormous group of sunspots. Suddenly, before his eyes, two brilliant beads of white light appeared over the sunspots; they were so bright he could barely stand to look at the screen.

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Sunspot Breakthrough

 

Written by Dr. Tony Phillips
Science@NASA

NASAWashington, D.C. – Imagine forecasting a hurricane in Miami weeks before the storm was even a swirl of clouds off the coast of Africa—or predicting a tornado in Kansas from the flutter of a butterfly’s wing1 in Texas. These are the kind of forecasts meteorologists can only dream about.

Could the dream come true? A new study by Stanford researchers suggests that such forecasts may one day be possible—not on Earth, but on the sun.

“We have learned to detect sunspots before they are visible to the human eye,” says Stathis Ilonidis, a PhD student at Stanford University. “This could lead to significant advances in space weather forecasting.”

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