Subscribe to our free daily newsletters
. 24/7 Space News .

Subscribe to our free daily newsletters

NASA, ESA spacecraft track solar storm through space
by Staff Writers
Greenbelt MD (SPX) Aug 17, 2017

File image.

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. However, scientists have recently used data from 10 NASA and ESA (European Space Agency) spacecraft in the direct path of a CME to piece together an unprecedented portrait of how these solar storms move through space - in particular, narrowing down the changes in speed that happen as CMEs travel through the solar system beyond Earth's orbit.

The results were published on Aug. 14, 2017 in the Journal of Geophysical Research. This new set of observations adds key information to the models needed to track how material moves and changes throughout space in the solar system - crucial to understanding the medium through which our spacecraft travel, as we venture farther and farther from home.

On Oct. 14, 2014, a CME left the Sun, as measured by spacecraft that watch for CMEs from afar using an instrument called a coronagraph. From there, the CME washed over spacecraft throughout the inner solar system - including passing by Curiosity on Mars, near comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko and out to Saturn.

This wealth of data from directly in the path of the CME is a boon for scientists working on space science simulations. At NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, scientists work to validate, host and improve such simulations, and this new information provides the most comprehensive look to date at how the speed of a CME evolves over time.

"If you have just one data point, you can simulate that easily, because you only have to validate that one point," said Leila Mays, a space scientist at Goddard and an author on the paper. But Mays points out that while the model may be tuned to match that one data point, it's unlikely to be accurate in the big picture. "Once you get more data, you can put together more pieces of the puzzle."

CMEs like this are common, especially when the Sun is in an active phase, as it was in 2014. This particular CME first caught scientists' interest because of its interference with another set of observations: the interaction between Comet Siding Spring and the Martian atmosphere.

"We found at the time of the comet's passing, there was some solar wind disturbance around Mars," said Olivier Witasse, a space scientist with ESA and lead author on the paper. "Which was a bit of a shame because we wanted to see the effects of the comet on the atmosphere."

Witasse and team used models from the Community Coordinated Modeling Center, or CCMC, based at NASA Goddard, to provide more context about the CME that had interfered with their measurements.

"The experimental forecasting at the CCMC made finding this CME possible," said Mays. "We were able to use our database of CMEs and throw them all into this simulation to see which were candidates for their observations."

After Witasse's team realized that comet 67P - and therefore ESA's Rosetta spacecraft, then orbiting the comet - was lined up to be right in the path of the CME, too, they began hunting for other observations.

"From there, it was an exciting chase to see where else the CME might have hit," said Mays. "Sometimes the impacted spacecraft's instruments weren't on, but we were able to gather other housekeeping data."

This added up to seven direct, confirmed detections of the CME. ESA's Venus Express also measured the CME indirectly, and two additional NASA spacecraft had probable detections of the CME as well - a few months and then more than a year after it burst from the Sun. New Horizons on its way to Pluto very likely observed this same CME in January 2015, and Voyager 2 on the edge of the heliosphere may have observed it in March 2016.

Because of Voyager 2's great distance from the Sun and New Horizons' lack of a magnetometer - an instrument that measures magnetic fields - it's not possible to say for certain if the particle changes detected by those spacecraft were caused by this particular CME.

"Once a CME travels that far from the Sun, it gets squeezed between large, merged interaction regions in the solar wind, so it's not as easy to determine exactly what's going on," said Mays.

Studying how such space weather affects the farthest regions of space, where there are fewer observatories to measure such things, remains a tantalizing area of research - the more we know about our neighborhood, the more we can protect the technology we send out to explore our solar system.

NASA instrument key to understanding solar powered planet arrives at Kennedy Space Center
Greenbelt MD (SPX) Aug 09, 2017
A new instrument that will monitor our planet's biggest power source, the Sun, arrived at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It has a targeted November 2017 launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket to the International Space Station. The Total Solar and Spectral Irradiance Sensor (TSIS-1) instrument was built by the University of Colorado's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP ... read more

Related Links
Goddard Space Flight Center
Solar Science News at SpaceDaily

Thanks for being here;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.

SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once

credit card or paypal
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5 Billed Monthly

paypal only

Comment using your Disqus, Facebook, Google or Twitter login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

SpaceX launches super-computer to space station

NASA: let's say something to Voyager 1 on 40th anniversary of launch

Disruptioneering: Streamlining the Process of Scientific Discovery

NASA Offers Space Station as Catalyst for Discovery in Washington

SHIIVER tank arrives at NASA's Marshall Center for spray-on foam insulation

'Dragon captured' as cargo arrives at space station

SpaceX launches super-computer to space station

ISRO Develops Ship-Based Antenna System to Track Satellite Launches

For Moratorium on Sending Commands to Mars, Blame the Sun

Tributes to wetter times on Mars

Opportunity will spend three weeks at current location due to Solar Conjunction

Curiosity Mars Rover Begins Study of Ridge Destination

China's satellite sends unbreakable cipher from space

Xian Satellite Control Center resolves over 10 major satellite faults in 50 years

China develops sea launches to boost space commerce

Chinese satellite Zhongxing-9A enters preset orbit

Blue Sky Network Reaffirms Commitment to Brazilian Market

India to Launch Exclusive Satellite for Afghanistan

ASTROSCALE Raises a Total of $25 Million in Series C Led by Private Companies

LISA Pathfinder: bake, rattle and roll

Archinaut Project conducts first large-scale 3D build in space-like environment

Air Force tests new radar receivers for rescue helicopters

Lockheed Martin integrates first modernized A2100 satellite

Marine Corps testing mobile 3D printing lab

Tidally locked exoplanets may be more common than previously thought

A New Search for Extrasolar Planets from the Arecibo Observatory

Gulf of Mexico tube worm is one of the longest-living animals in the world

Molecular Outflow Launched Beyond Disk Around Young Star

New Horizons Video Soars over Pluto's Majestic Mountains and Icy Plains

Juno spots Jupiter's Great Red Spot

New evidence in support of the Planet Nine hypothesis

Scientists probe Neptune's depths to reveal secrets of icy planets

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2017 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement