Japanese Spacecraft "Sunrise" Sheds New Light on Sun
Solar Optical Telescope (SOT) provides crystal-clear
images of features on the sun’s surface. This video shows
a whirl of a new developing sunspot colliding with an
existing spot that explodes into a major solar flare.
This solar flare produced high-energy protons that reached
the Earth at the time of STS-116 Space Shuttle flight.
The flare is shown in three different wavelengths. Click
for Full Movie Captured by "Hinode"
NASA released never-before-seen images that show the
field is much more turbulent and
dynamic than previously known. The international spacecraft
Hinode, formerly known as Solar B, took the images.
Hinode, Japanese for "sunrise," was
launched Sept. 23, 2006, to study the sun’s magnetic field
and how its explosive
energy propagates through the different layers of the solar atmosphere.
The spacecraft’s uninterrupted high-resolution observations of
the sun will have an impact on solar physics comparable to the
Hubble Space Telescope’s impact on astronomy.
"For the first time, we are now able to make out tiny granules
of hot gas that rise and fall in the sun’s magnetized atmosphere," said
Dick Fisher, director of NASA’s Heliophyics Division, Science
Mission Directorate, Washington. "These images will open
a new era of study on some of the sun’s processes that effect
Earth, astronauts, orbiting satellites and the solar system."
Hinode’s three primary instruments, the Solar Optical Telescope,
the X-ray Telescope and the Extreme Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrometer,
are observing the different layers of the sun. Studies focus
on the solar atmosphere from the visible surface of the sun,
known as the photosphere, to the corona, the outer atmosphere
of the sun that extends outward into the solar system.
the measurements of all three instruments, Hinode is showing how
changes in the structure of the magnetic field and the release
of magnetic energy in the low atmosphere spread outward through
the corona and into interplanetary space to create space weather," said
John Davis, project scientist from NASA’s Marshall Space Flight
Center, Huntsville, Ala.
sun’s outer atmosphere, known as corona, is the spawning
ground for the largest explosions in the solar
system. By combining observations from Hinode’s optical,
X-ray, and Extreme Ultraviolet imaging instruments, scientists
will be able to study how changes in the sun’s magnetic
field trigger powerful solar flares and coronal mass ejections
that affect the Earth. Click for Full Movie Captured
Space weather involves the production of energetic particles
and emissions of electromagnetic radiation. These bursts of energy
can black out long-distance communications over entire continents
and disrupt the global navigational system.
"Hinode images are revealing irrefutable evidence for the
presence of turbulence-driven processes that are bringing magnetic
fields, on all scales, to the sun’s surface, resulting in an
extremely dynamic chromosphere or gaseous envelope around the
sun," said Alan Title, a corporate senior fellow at Lockheed
Martin, Palo Alto, Calif., and consulting professor of physics
at Stanford University, Stanford, Calif.
Hinode is a collaborative mission led by the Japan Aerospace
Exploration Agency and includes the European Space Agency and
Britain’s Particle Physics Astronomy Research Council. The National
Astronomical Observatory of Japan, Tokyo, developed the Solar
Optical Telescope, which provided the fine-scale structure views
of the sun’s lower atmosphere, and developed the X-ray Telescope
in collaboration with the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory
of Cambridge, Mass. The X-ray Telescope captured the rapid, time-sequenced
images of explosive events in the sun’s outer atmosphere.
"By following the evolution of the solar structures that
outline the magnetic field before, during and after these explosive
events, we hope to find clear evidence to establish that magnetic
reconnection is the underlying cause for this explosive activity," said
Leon Golub of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory.
The Marshall Space Flight Center manages the development of
the scientific instrumentation provided for the mission by NASA,
industry and other federal agencies.