The science, destruction, and beauty of the solar storm that's been blasting earth - from the breathtaking Aurora Borealis to future exploration of the sun itself. We know our sun is vast and blazing. But sometimes it's blazing more aggressively than others. Positively storming. Last week, the largest solar storm in almost a decade boomed out with a wave of cosmic energy across the 93 million miles to Earth. And we got hit.
Superheated gas hurling waves of particles off the sun. Slamming Earth's magnetic field. Threatening power grids, orbiting satellites, GPS signals, airline flights, radio communications. And making some amazing Northern Lights.
This hour, On Point: Heading into storm season on the sun. -Tom Ashbrook
Learn more about how solar storms can impact life here on Earth. This one hour program features interviews with SWEAP Principal Investigator Dr. Justin C. Kasper, along with the chief scientist of the NOAA Space Weather and Prediction Center, the exective director of operations of a major power utility, and an aurora borealis photographer. The conversation includes examples of extreme solar events from the past, the effect they would have on modern society, and work by NASA to send a spacecraft called Solar Probe Plus into the atmosphere of our Sun. Follow this link to the On Point page for photos, videos, and links, along with an audio recording of the one hour program.
Arguably the most significant open question in heliophysics is the identification of the physical processes responsible for sustaining the solar corona at millions of degrees and for heating the solar wind as it expands into interplanetary space. The ultimate source of this energy is the convective motion of the surface of the photosphere and its embedded magnetic field, but the mechanisms by which the large scale and low frequency motion of the field is able to dissipate sufficient heat in the corona and solar wind have not been conclusively identified.
The NASA Solar Probe Plus mission will address these questions by plunging into the solar corona and obtaining the first direct measurements of the plasma of the extended solar atmosphere. This talk will discuss the Solar Probe Plus mission, with a focus on science goals and the design of plasma instruments capable of both making the necessary measurements and of surviving the solar encounters.
Click here to watch a video of the colloquium. Click here to download a copy of the presentation.