Articles Tagged "Solar News"

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Sun's doldrums likely to last by Ron Cowen
Tuesday, March 8th 2011, 5:46 PM EST
Co2sceptic (Site Admin)
Despite a recent flare, solar physicists project low activity for up to a decade

A powerful explosion that erupted on the solar surface on February 14 was the most powerful flare in more than four years, and heralds an approaching peak in the sun’s 11-year activity cycle. But as the sun pulls out of an exceptionally quiet period of low activity, researchers predict the coming solar maximum won’t be very exciting either.

“This cycle continues to fall below expectations. And those expectations were pretty low two years ago,” says David Hathaway of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

The number of sunspots — dark, highly magnetized regions on the solar surface — is one indicator of solar activity, and scientists now predict this will be the weakest sunspot cycle in 200 years. “We are off to a good start for a below-average cycle peaking in late 2013 or early 2014,” says Dean Pesnell of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

Understanding how present activity affects future cycles is important to gauging both the sun’s influence on climate and its likelihood of producing powerful and destructive solar storms.

Solar physicists say they are homing in on the complex internal interactions that could explain why the sun has been hibernating for more than four years now and may not fully awaken for another decade. Hathaway and other researchers say they’re now convinced that a flow of ionized gas, or plasma, known as the meridional flow controls the strength of the solar cycle (SN: 4/10/11, p. 8).On either side of the equator, the flow moves like a conveyor belt that stretches just beneath the solar surface from the equator to the two poles and then dives into the sun’s interior, flowing from the poles back to the equator to complete the loop.
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Scientists Claim To Have Cracked Spotless Sun Mystery by Lester Haines
Thursday, March 3rd 2011, 8:53 AM EST
Co2sceptic (Site Admin)
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Sunspot cycles over the last century. The blue curve shows the cyclic variation in the number of sunspots. Red bars show the cumulative number of sunspot-less days. The minimum of sunspot cycle 23 was the longest in the space age with the largest number of spotless days. Credit: Dibyendu Nandi et al.

Scientists reckon they've cracked the mystery as to why during 2008-2009, the Sun was completely devoid of sunspots for almost two years.

This deepest solar minimum in a century, marking the end of sunspot cycle 23, saw the Sun's global magnetic field and solar wind weaken, allowing dangerous cosmic rays to sweep the inner solar system.

It also prompted a cooling and collapse of Earth's upper atmosphere in the absence of the UV ray heating normally provided by sunspot activity.

"Space junk stopped decaying as rapidly as usual and started accumulating in Earth orbit," NASA explains.

See Also: Researchers Crack the Mystery of the Missing Sunspots -

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NASA: Teleconference To Explain Missing Sunspots
Tuesday, March 1st 2011, 5:35 AM EST
Co2sceptic (Site Admin)
WASHINGTON, Feb. 28, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- NASA will host a media teleconference at 1 p.m. EST on Thursday, March 3, to discuss the first computer model that explains the recent period of decreased solar activity during the sun's 11-year cycle. The recent solar minimum, a period characterized by a lower frequency of sunspots and solar storms, ended in 2008 and was the deepest observed in almost 100 years.

The teleconference panelists are:

Richard Fisher, director, Heliophysics Division, Science Mission Directorate, NASA Headquarters, Washington Dibyendu Nandi, assistant professor, Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Kolkata, India Andres Munoz-Jaramillo, visiting research fellow, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, Mass. Delores Knipp, visiting scientist, University of Colorado at Boulder

Supporting information for the briefing will be posted at:

Audio of the teleconference will be streamed live on the Web at:
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Climate Change Satellite’ Gets its Day in the Sun — Finally by Anne Minard
Wednesday, February 23rd 2011, 10:34 AM EST
Co2sceptic (Site Admin)
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The Earth-orbiting satellite Glory will help pursue the sun-climate connection when it launches on Wednesday. Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA is launching an Earth-orbiting satellite called Glory tomorrow that will tackle a highly charged question: How much can the sun contribute to climate change?
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How the Active Sun May Affect Your Everyday Life by Mark Paquette
Friday, February 18th 2011, 10:58 AM EST
Co2sceptic (Site Admin)

So much has been in the news recently about the sun becoming active. 2011 is expected to be the peak for solar activity with flares, sunspots, coronal mass ejections (CME), and the solar wind all affecting the world. How will these phenomena affect you personally?

Episodic solar activity has a number of effects that are of interest to us. A radiation dose from energetic particles is an occasional hazard for astronauts and for electronics on satellites. Geomagnetic field disturbances may damage power systems, disrupt communications, interfere with high-tech navigation systems, and create the spectacular auroras (northern and southern lights). They might also affect navigation, space exploration, electric power distribution, and some radio and telephone communication.
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New Paper: Solar irradiance at Earth surface varies up to 24 times more than expected
Monday, February 14th 2011, 6:09 PM EST
Co2sceptic (Site Admin)
A new peer-reviewed paper published in the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics finds that measurements of solar irradiance at ground level at the South Pole show variations of up to 24 times more than would be expected over the course of a solar cycle. While satellite measurements find that total solar irradiance only varies 0.1% from a solar minimum to solar maximum, the ground-level measurements analyzed by the authors show a change of 1.8 ± 1.0% in the UV-A (320–400 nm) spectrum and 2.4 ± 1.9% in the visible (400–600 nm) spectrum over the course of a solar cycle.

Regressions based on all 17 solstice periods indicate approximate 1.8% and 2.4% decreases in ground-level irradiance for the wavelength regions 320–400 nm and 400–600 nm, respectively, from solar maximum to solar minimum. The associated uncertainty ranges are approximately 0.8–2.7% for the UV-A and 0.5%–4.3% for the visible.

Changes in extraterrestrial irradiance over the solar cycle surely contribute a portion of the variability deduced at the polar surface for the 320–400 nm region, although the magnitude of this contribution is uncertain. However, the inferred solar cycle dependence in the 400–600 nm visible band is too large to be of extraterrestrial origin unless one adopts values at the lowest end of the error range.
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Latest solar flare is largest of this solar cycle by Brent McGrady
Monday, February 14th 2011, 1:28 PM EST
Co2sceptic (Site Admin)
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The NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory is reporting this afternoon that a medium sized solar flare with a magnitude of 6.6 ejected off the surface of the sun today launching a coronal mass ejection towards Earth. The flare reached its maximum at 17:38 UTC, or 12:38 PM EST. The eruption began at 1728 UTC and ended at 1747 UTC, lasting 19 minutes. According to NASA, the location was at S21E05 on the sun, ejecting from sunspot #1158, and was a moderate solar flare.

According to the Facebook page for the Solar Dynamics Observatory, there are 3 categories of solar flares. X-class flares are big and are major events that can trigger planet-wide radio blackouts and long-lasting radiation storms. M-class flares, which occurred today, are medium-sized and can cause brief radio blackouts that affect Earth's polar regions. Minor radiation storms sometimes follow an M-class flare. Compared to X- and M-class events, C-class flares are small with few noticeable consequences here on Earth.
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First Views of the Entire Sun by Kelly Whitt
Tuesday, February 8th 2011, 3:03 AM EST
Co2sceptic (Site Admin)
The STEREO spacecraft has made 360 degree images of the sun for the first time in history, allowing improved for space weather forecasts.

NASA's Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO) consists of two spacecraft that are now in place, orbiting the sun and beaming back more solar information than ever before.

First View of the Entire Sun

On Sunday, February 6, 2011, the STEREO spacecraft released the first ever complete view of the sun's entire atmosphere and surface. The two craft lie 180 degrees away from each other and image half of the sun, creating videos of the sun in its entirety. The spacecraft were launched in 2006 and have been moving into position ever since.

Even though STEREO is now positioned on opposite sides of the sun, they will continue in their orbit until they cross each other and then change positions. When they cross each other, they will be on the opposite side of the sun from Earth, still allowing a complete view from STEREO and from other Earth-based observatories. For the next 8 years, the spacecraft will be able to show scientists a larger picture of the sun.
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Earth's Magnetic Field Ramps Up Speedy Space Particles
Wednesday, February 2nd 2011, 1:47 AM EST
Co2sceptic (Site Admin)
Image AttachmentArtist's rendition of magnetic reconnection triggering substorm onset, as captured by NASA/THEMIS spacecraft.
Walt Feimer NASA/GSFC.

A flotilla of NASA probes has tracked the origin of speedy particles in Earth's atmosphere and confirmed that, after they are spawned by "substorms" in Earth's magnetic field, they gain energy as they rocket toward Earth.

Substorms are powerful energy bursts that give rise to many electrons, which themselves supercharge the northern lights, or aurora borealis. Observations by NASA's five THEMIS spacecraft, designed to study substorms, showed that these particles get ramped up by the changing magnetic fields they cross following the initial burst. [Video: Cause of Auroras Animated]

Understanding the source of such particles and how they move is crucial to gaining a better knowledge of space weather around our planet, which can affect satellite communications and endanger the health of astronauts, researchers said.

"The origin of fast electrons in substorms has been a puzzle," lead author Maha Ashour-Abdalla of UCLA said in a statement. "It hasn't been clear until now if they got their burst of speed in the middle of the storm or from some place further away."
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First Ever Whole Sun View .. Coming Soon from STEREO by Ken Kremer
Monday, January 31st 2011, 1:55 PM EST
Co2sceptic (Site Admin)
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On Super Bowl SUNday - Feb 6, 2011; the two NASA STEREO spacecraft will see the entire Sun ! Super Bowl SUNday will truly mark a milestone for solar observations. On February 6, the two STEREO spacecrafts will be 180 degrees apart and for the next 8 years the STEREO spacecrafts and SDO will be able to observe the entire 360 degrees of the Sun. Credit: NASA. Watch the cool STEREO Whole Sun Preview Video below. Plus Launch Video and more.

“For the first time in the history of humankind we will be able to see the front and the far side of the Sun … Simultaneously,” Madhulika Guhathakurta told Universe Today. Guhathakurta is the STEREO Program Scientist at NASA HQ.

Courtesy of NASA’s solar duo of STEREO spacecraft.

And the noteworthy event is timed to coincide just perfectly with ‘Super Bowl SUNday’ – Exactly one week from today on Feb. 6 during Super Bowl XLV !
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