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




Subscribe to our free daily newsletters



SOLAR SCIENCE
SwRI team uses airborne telescopes to study Sun and Mercury during total solar eclipse
by Staff Writers
Boulder CO (SPX) Jul 26, 2017


During the upcoming total solar eclipse, a team led by Southwest Research Institute will observe the solar corona using stabilized telescopes aboard two of NASA's WB-57 research aircraft. This vantage point provides distinct advantages over ground-based observations, as illustrated by this composite photo of the aircraft and the 2015 total solar eclipse at the Faroe Islands

A team led by Southwest Research Institute will use airborne telescopes aboard NASA research aircraft to study the solar corona and Mercury's surface during this summer's total solar eclipse. The August 21 observations will provide the clearest images to date of the Sun's outer atmosphere and attempt the first-ever "thermal images" of surface temperature variations on Mercury.

Total solar eclipses are unique opportunities for scientists to study the hot atmosphere above the Sun's visible surface. The faint light from the corona is usually overpowered by intense emissions from the Sun itself. During a total eclipse, however, the Moon blocks the glare from the bright solar disk and darkens the sky, allowing the weaker coronal emissions to be observed.

"By looking for high-speed motion in the solar corona, we hope to understand what makes it so hot. It's millions of degrees Celsius, hundreds of times hotter than the visible surface below," said Dr. Amir Caspi, principal investigator of the project and a senior research scientist in SwRI's Boulder, Colorado, office.

"In addition, the corona is one of the major sources of electromagnetic storms here at Earth. These phenomena damage satellites, cause power grid blackouts, and disrupt communication and GPS signals, so it's important to better understand them."

Why is the Sun's outer atmosphere so much hotter than its surface? Perhaps the Sun's magnetic field carries energy into the corona and converts it into heat. Or perhaps nanoflares or nanojets - explosions or eruptions too small and numerous to see individually - are constantly releasing small amounts of energy that combine to heat the entire corona.

The team will use high-speed, high-definition video of the corona to look for fast, coherent motions that could help solve this puzzle. The project may also shed light on another question: why the magnetic structures in the corona are relatively smooth and stable.

"The magnetic field forms well organized loops and arcades in the lower corona, as well as large, fan-shaped structures extending out to many solar radii," said Dr. Craig DeForest, a co-investigator also from SwRI's Boulder office. "These structures are constantly being churned and tangled by the motion of the solar surface itself. So why does the corona always appear well organized, like a recently-coiffed head of hair, and not snarled or matted?"

From two of NASA's WB-57 research aircraft, the team will observe the corona during the eclipse using stabilized telescopes with sensitive, high-speed, visible-light and infrared cameras at 50,000 feet. This high altitude provides distinct advantages over ground-based observations.

"Being above the weather guarantees perfect observing conditions, while being above more than 90 percent of Earth's atmosphere gives us much better image quality than on the ground," said another SwRI co-investigator, Dr. Constantine Tsang. "This mobile platform also allows us to chase the eclipse shadow, giving us over 7 minutes of totality between the two planes, compared to just 2 minutes and 40 seconds for a stationary observer on the ground."

These are the first astronomical observations for the WB-57s. Southern Research, which is located in Birmingham, Alabama, built the Airborne Imaging and Recording Systems onboard and is working with the scientific team to upgrade its DyNAMITE telescopes on both planes with solar filters and improved data recorders.

"This airborne platform also provides us with higher-quality, higher-speed images than are achievable from current or previous space-borne instruments," said Caspi. "It highlights the potential of the WB-57 platform for future astronomical observations."

Eclipse observations also give the team a unique opportunity to study Mercury, the planet closest to the Sun. Mercury is difficult to observe because it is usually washed out by the bright daytime sky, or distorted by the atmosphere near the horizon at twilight.

"We plan to measure Mercury in the infrared, in near darkness, and through very little atmosphere," Tsang said. Scientists hope to use infrared measurements to calculate surface temperatures over the planet's entire night side. "How the temperature changes across the surface gives us information about the thermophysical properties of Mercury's soil, down to depths of about a few centimeters, something that has never been measured before."

The SwRI-led team includes scientists from the University of Colorado, the National Center for Atmospheric Research High Altitude Observatory, and the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, as well as international colleagues at Trinity College Dublin in Ireland and the Royal Observatory of Belgium. The team will make its data available to the public after the event. The team's work will also be featured in two documentaries to air on eclipse day and in the fall of 2017.

SOLAR SCIENCE
The moon is front and center during a total solar eclipse
Greenbelt MD (SPX) Jul 24, 2017
In the lead-up to a total solar eclipse, most of the attention is on the sun, but Earth's moon also has a starring role. "A total eclipse is a dance with three partners: the moon, the sun and Earth," said Richard Vondrak, a lunar scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. "It can only happen when there is an exquisite alignment of the moon and the sun in our sk ... read more

Related Links
Southwest Research Institute
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
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

SOLAR SCIENCE
Soyuz rocket rolled out, ready to launch

Astronauts gear up for space with tough Russian training

Russian sanctions won't affect cooperation in space

NASA Offers Space Station as Catalyst for Discovery in Washington

SOLAR SCIENCE
Vega to launch two Earth Observation Satellites for Italy, Israel and France

Three Up, Three Down as NASA Tests RS-25 Flight Controller

Iran in 'successful' test of satellite-launch rocket

Aerojet Rocketdyne's RS-25 Flight Controller Goes Three for Three in SLS Test

SOLAR SCIENCE
Portals to new worlds: Martian exploration near the North Pole

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

SOLAR SCIENCE
China develops sea launches to boost space commerce

Chinese satellite Zhongxing-9A enters preset orbit

Chinese Space Program: From Setback, to Manned Flights, to the Moon

Chinese Rocket Fizzles Out, Puts Other Launches on Hold

SOLAR SCIENCE
Good Night, Lisa Pathfinder

A Final Farewell to LISA Pathfinder

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

LISA Pathfinder: bake, rattle and roll

SOLAR SCIENCE
Multitasking monolayers

Writing with the electron beam: Now in silver

Scientists announce the quest for high-index materials

A new synthesis route for alternative catalysts of noble metals

SOLAR SCIENCE
SETI Institute-Unistellar Partnership Promises to Revolutionize Amateur Astronomy

Holographic imaging could sample and identify living microbes in the outer solar system

Why looking for aliens is good for society

Breakthrough Starshot launches tiny spacecraft in quest for Alpha Centauri

SOLAR SCIENCE
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

NASA's New Horizons Team Strikes Gold in Argentina




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