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Heliophysics Nugget: How To Share Sun Observations With the World
by Karen C. Fox for Goddard Space Flight Center
Greenbelt MD (SPX) Jul 17, 2013

Two observations of the sun at the same time on July 11, 2012 show the incredible resolution of NASA's High Resolution Coronal Imager, seen on the bottom. The top image is from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, which -- unlike Hi-C -- can take pictures of the full disk of the sun simultaneously. Image Credit: NASA/SDO/Hi-C. For a larger version of this image please go here.

On July 11, 2012, a sounding rocket flew for just over 10 minutes, hurtling up into space for a short journey to capture images of the sun from a vantage point above the disruptions of Earth's atmosphere.

After it returned, scientists soon announced that the instrument aboard the rocket, called Hi-C for High Resolution Coronal Imager, had captured the highest resolution of the sun's atmosphere, the corona, resolving structures on the sun that were a mere 100 miles across.

A year later, on July 11, 2013, Jonathan Cirtain spoke at the Solar Physics Division of the American Astronomical Society meeting to share the results of a year's worth of work from scientists around the world, including three published papers and seven more pending.

Such a large number of papers in such a short time is unusual for a sounding rocket experiment, and Cirtain credits this to the fact that Hi-C was the first sounding rocket to ever incorporate their data into the widely accessible Virtual Solar Observatory ( hosted at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

Almost all such government-funded data are made available to scientists and the public, but there are many options for how one can do so. Often the data from sounding rockets is so specialized that massaging it into a standardized format for something like the Virtual Solar Observatory isn't possible, preventing dissemination in this manner. With Hi-C's unprecedented resolution, however, the team decided to try a new tack and share their data with as many scientists worldwide as possible.

"The impact of our decision to make our data available in the same place that the larger telescopes like the Solar Dynamics Observatory do has been significant," said Cirtain. "It makes it extraordinarily easy for scientists to access the data and do their own analysis."

Papers based on the five minutes or so of useful data from Hi-C - five minutes during which the instrument captured an image every 5.4 seconds - have focused on how heat and energy move through the solar atmosphere to help heat it to such high temperatures.


Related Links
Sounding Rockets at NASA
Solar Science News at SpaceDaily

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