Tag: Sun

Incredible First Ever Image Of What The Sun’s North Pole Looks Like

What does the north pole of the Sun look like?

This might not be one of the most pressing questions in astronomy, but it has been intriguing solar physicists for a while.

We’ve sent many probes to study the Sun at a wide range of latitudes but never actually from above or below, so there’s a gap in our knowledge of our star, which we may now be able to start filling in.

Using data from the Proba-2 (PRoject for OnBoard Autonomy 2) observatory, the European Space Agency (ESA) has managed to create an image of how the north pole of the Sun is likely to look.

So, without directly photographing it, how did they do it?

Proba-2 focuses mainly on the lower latitudes of the Sun but it captures everything in its line of sight, including solar atmospheric effects at high latitudes, which can indirectly help us understand the polar regions.




The team took observations of the Sun, blocking out the solar disk, and leaving only the northernmost part (and a bit on the sides) – as demonstrated by this handy comic strip-style illustration below.

These were converted into information about the atmospheric situation at the time the image was taken.

The process was then repeated several times at later times until there was enough data to cover roughly half of a solar rotation. And from that, they were able to reconstruct the image above.

Such a reconstruction is not certainly a true image – some imprecisions are evident, such as the big line across the middle, which is due to changes to the solar atmosphere as the observations were taking place – but it is the best we can hope for, for now.

Dark and light patches are seen on the surface, indicating that the complexity of our star extends to all latitudes. The dark patch in the middle is a polar coronal hole, the source of a fast solar wind.

The image is from extreme ultraviolet light, so it tracks the energetic processes that give rise to the solar wind, the particles that stream from the Sun out into the Solar System.

The network of structure seen here could alter the solar wind speed.

The NASA/ESA Ulysses mission back in 1994/1995 was the only probe we’ve sent to study the polar regions of the Sun, but It won’t be the last. ESA is planning to send a new mission in 2020.

The Solar Orbiter will study the Sun at high enough latitudes that it will be capable of exploring its polar regions.

This knowledge will be very important in understanding several processes happening on the Sun’s surface and how they impact the space environment around Earth.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

Why Is The Sky Dark At Night?

That question is not as simple as it may sound. You might think that space appears dark at night because that is when our side of Earth faces away from the Sun as our planet rotates on its axis every 24 hours.

But what about all those other far away suns that appear as stars in the night sky? Our own Milky Way galaxy contains over 200 billion stars, and the entire universe probably contains over 100 billion galaxies.

You might suppose that that many stars would light up the night like daytime!

Until the 20th century, astronomers didn’t think it was even possible to count all the stars in the universe. They thought the universe went on forever. In other words, they thought the universe was infinite.

Besides being very hard to imagine, the trouble with an infinite universe is that no matter where you look in the

night sky, you should see a star.

Stars should overlap each other in the sky like tree trunks in the middle of a very thick forest.

But, if this were the case, the sky would be blazing with light. This problem greatly troubled astronomers and became known as “Olbers’ Paradox.” A paradox is a statement that seems to disagree with itself.

To try to explain the paradox, some 19th century scientists thought that dust clouds between the stars must be absorbing a lot of the starlight so it wouldn’t shine through to us.




But later scientists realized that the dust itself would absorb so much energy from the starlight that eventually it would glow as hot and bright as the stars themselves.

Astronomers now realize that the universe is not infinite. A finite universe—that is, a universe of limited size—even one with trillions and trillions of stars, just wouldn’t have enough stars to light up all of space.

Although the idea of a finite universe explains why Earth’s sky is dark at night, other causes work to make it even darker.

Not only is the universe finite in size, it is also finite in age. That is, it had a beginning, just as you and I did.

The universe was born about 15 billion years ago in a fantastic explosion called the Big Bang. It began at a single point and has been expanding ever since.

Because the universe is still expanding, the distant stars and galaxies are getting farther away all the time. Although nothing travels faster than light, it still takes time for light to cross any distance.

So, when astronomers look at a galaxy a million light years away, they are seeing the galaxy as it looked a million years ago.

The light that leaves that galaxy today will have much farther to travel to our eyes than the light that left it a million years ago or even one year ago, because the distance between that galaxy and us constantly increases.

That means the amount of light energy reaching us from distant stars dwindles all the time. And the farther away the star, the less bright it will look to us.

The universe, both finite in size and finite in age, is full of wonderful sights.

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Tiny Sun Sensor Can Protect You From Sunburns And Prevent Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is scary: According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, more people in the U.S. are diagnosed with skin cancer than all other cancers combined.

One in five Americans will develop skin cancer by age 70. One person dies of melanoma (a less common skin cancer that is more likely to grow and spread) every hour.

These statistics won’t stop millions of Americans from spending time outdoors this summer, though it’s important to realize that we all could and should be better about protecting our skin from the sun’s harmful rays.

Now, L’Oréal has a new product that may make it a whole lot easier: It’s called UV Sense.

The cosmetic company teamed up with Northwestern University professor John A. Rogers to create a small wearable device, called UV Sense, that can precisely measure a person’s exposure to UV light from the sun.




If you’ve gotten too much exposure, the app linked to the sensor will let you know.

The device is powered by the user’s phone, and activated by UVA and UVB rays. It’s waterproof and can be attached to almost any part of the body or clothing.

Users can monitor their exposure by using the app, which would warn them when to be mindful of UV exposure.

L’Oréal launched a similar product in 2016 called My UV Patch, a stretchable skin senor to monitor UV exposure.

The company has distributed over one million patches to consumers in 37 countries for free, to encourage sun-safe behaviors.

So far, it’s worked: 34 percent of users applied sunscreen more often, and 37 percent tried to stay in the shade more frequently.

Engineers built on the design of My UV Patch to create UV Sense — and hope it will be just as effective in promoting sun safety.

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How the Sun Set Off Dozens of Mines During the 1972 Vietnam War

A sea mine explodes off the coast of North Vietnam during Operation End Sweep.

In 1972, the United States was deep into the Vietnam War with little end in sight. North Vietnam had just launched an offensive on the South, the Easter Offensive.

The United States military was desperate to gain any advantage it could, so top brass hatched a plan to cover the port of Haiphong with underwater mines.

Starting in May of that year, Operation Pocket Money saw thousands of mines dropped in the water outside Haiphong’s port.

Those mines were supposed to sit there for about a year, but on August 4, dozens of them exploded prematurely. But they weren’t set off by passing ships; instead, it seems that the mines were triggered by the sun.

At the time, the military suspected solar interference might be involved in the explosion, but the research was classified until now.

Since the declassification, a group of civilian researchers revisited the incident and confirmed the military’s suspicions: Solar effects were to blame.

The key lies in how the mines are triggered to explode. Each mine has a magnetic sensor that can detect subtle changes in magnetic fields.

If a passing ship drifts too close to the mines with its metal hull, the altered magnetic field would set off the detonator.




Unfortunately, there are plenty of ways to alter a magnetic field aside from the hulls of ships. One significant source of magnetic fields is the sun, which produces the strongest magnetic field in the solar system.

Occasionally, large eruptions from the surface of the sun—called solar flares—can send huge plumes of magnetic material hurtling toward Earth.

When those solar flares reach Earth, they can cause all kinds of magnetic disturbances. At their most mild, they’re responsible for the Northern Lights and other auroras.

At their worst, they can mess with GPS systems, interfere with communications, and in one particularly notable case, almost start a nuclear war.

In this case, an unusually strong solar flare was enough to mess up the delicate sensors on some of the Navy’s mines placed in Haiphong’s harbor.

According to the research paper, that 1972 solar flare was one of the strongest on record, and in addition to exploding a few dozen mines also interfered with telephone lines and triggered power outages around the world.

This event underscores just how disruptive and dangerous solar flares can be. A high-intensity solar flare like the 1972 event could cripple our satellite networks if it hit us today, and so far we’ve been lucky to avoid something like that.

But we can’t be lucky forever, and if a repeat of the 1972 flare hits us now, exploding mines are going to be the least of our worries.

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A NASA Spacecraft Just Broke the Record for Closest Approach to Sun

A NASA sun-studying spacecraft just entered the record books.

In April of 1976, the German-American Helios 2 probe made spaceflight’s closest-ever solar approach, cruising within 26.55 million miles (42.73 million kilometers) of the sun.

But NASA’s Parker Solar Probe zoomed inside that distance today (Oct. 29), crossing the threshold at about 1:04 p.m. EDT (1704 GMT), agency officials said.

Helios 2 also set the mark back then for fastest speed relative to the sun, at 153,454 mph (246,960 km/h).

The Parker Solar Probe is expected to best that today as well, reaching higher speeds at about 10:54 p.m. EDT (0254 GMT on Oct. 30), NASA officials said.

These records will fall again and again over the course of the Parker Solar Probe’s $1.5 billion mission, which began Aug. 12 with a liftoff from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.




The spacecraft will study the sun during 24 close flybys over the next seven years, getting closer and closer to our star with each encounter.

The Parker Solar Probe’s final flyby, in 2025, will bring the craft within a mere 3.83 million miles (6.16 million km) of the sun’s surface.

And the sun’s powerful gravity will eventually accelerate the probe to a top speed of around 430,000 mph (690,000 km/h), NASA officials have said.

The first of these two dozen close encounters is just around the corner: It officially begins Wednesday (Oct. 31), with perihelion (closest solar approach) coming on the night of Nov. 5.

It’s been just 78 days since Parker Solar Probe launched, and we’ve now come closer to our star than any other spacecraft in history,” mission project manager Andy Driesman, from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, said in a statement.

It’s a proud moment for the team, though we remain focused on our first solar encounter, which begins on Oct. 31.

The spacecraft sports a special carbon-composite shield to protect itself and its instruments from intense heat and radiation during its close flybys.

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NASA’s Parker Solar Probe Is Headed To The Sun. So, What’s Next?

After decades of scientific brainstorming and years of construction, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe is safely on its way to flying seven times closer to the sun than any mission has before.

Now that the spacecraft is finally off the ground, it won’t be long before scientists can start digging into its data — and that data will keep coming for seven years.

There’s definitely a coiled-spring feeling,” project scientist Nicola Fox, a solar scientist at Johns Hopkins University, told Space.com earlier this week, before the launch. “We’re just ready for her to leave this planet.

And now, the spacecraft has finally left Earth. Here’s where the journey will take it.

The $1.5 billion Parker Solar Probe needed a ton of speed to escape Earth’s orbit, hence the total of three rocket stages that fired during the launch.

That will carry it to the neighborhood of Venus in just six weeks, arriving by late September.

On Sept. 28, the spacecraft will need to pull off a careful maneuver designed to gently slow it down and begin its calculated dance with the sun.




That maneuver, called a gravity assist, will pass a little of the spacecraft’s acceleration to the planet and edge the probe a little closer to the sun.

The Parker Solar Probe will then begin its first of 24 orbits around the sun, with its first close approach, or perihelion, coming on Nov. 1.

Each orbit will be petal-shaped, skimming over the sun closely and then flying out farther into space to close out the orbit.

The bulk of the probe’s science work will come when it is within a quarter of the distance between Earth and the sun — although the team is hoping that the instruments can be turned on for as much of the mission as possible.

The early orbits, while remaining farther away from the sun, will be special because the spacecraft will spend its time close to the sun in essentially the equivalent of geosynchronous orbit, hovering over the same region.

Not a lot of people appreciate how entertaining these periods are going to be,” Justin Kasper, a physicist at the University of Michigan and principal investigator for one of the probe’s instruments said.

During these periods, which scientists call fast radial scans, the spacecraft will swoop in at a speed that closely matches the sun’s speed of rotation, and then swoop out again.

While the spacecraft keeps pace with the sun’s rotation, it will be able to watch how the same region of the sun behaves over a period of about 10 days.

That means there’s plenty of science to look forward to years before the spacecraft completes its closest approach to the sun near the end of the mission.

It might take us five years to get to our closest orbit, but we should have some amazing insights into our sun just this winter,” Kasper said.

We’re going to have some amazing observations this November with that first perihelion.”

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NASA Launches Parker Solar Probe Mission To ‘Touch The Sun’

 

The first ever spacecraft to fly directly toward the Sun blast off on Saturday, on a mission to plunge into our star’s sizzling atmosphere and unlock the mysteries of the center of the solar system.

NASA’s car-sized, $1.5 billion Parker Solar Probe is scheduled to launch on a Delta IV Heavy rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida during a 65-minute launch window that opens at 3:33 am (0733 GMT).

By coming closer to the Sun than any spacecraft in history, the unmanned probe’s main goal is to unveil the secrets of the corona, the unusual atmosphere around the Sun.

We are going to be in an area that is so exciting, where solar wind — we believe — will be accelerating,” said NASA planetary science division director Jim Green.

Where we see huge magnetic fields that are passing by us, as coronal mass ejections make their way out into the solar system.

Not only is the corona about 300 times hotter than the Sun’s surface, but it also hurls powerful plasma and energetic particles that can unleash geomagnetic space storms, wreaking havoc on Earth by disrupting the power grid.




But these solar outbursts are poorly understood.

The Parker Solar Probe will help us do a much better job of predicting when a disturbance in the solar wind could hit Earth,” said Justin Kasper, a project scientist and professor at the University of Michigan.

Knowing more about the solar wind and space storms will also help protect future deep space explorers as they journey toward the Moon or Mars.

The probe is protected by an ultra-powerful heat shield that is just 11.43 centimetres thick.

The shield should enable the spacecraft to survive its close shave with the fiery star, coming within 6.16 million kilometres of the Sun’s surface.

The heat shield is built to withstand radiation equivalent to up to about 500 times the Sun’s radiation on Earth.

Even in a region where temperatures can reach more than a million degrees Fahrenheit, the sunlight is expected to heat the shield to just around 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit (1,371 degrees Celsius).

Scorching, yes? But if all works as planned, the inside of the spacecraft should stay at just 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

The goal for the Parker Solar Probe is to make 24 passes through the corona during its seven-year mission.

When it nears the Sun, the probe will travel rapidly enough to go from New York to Tokyo in one minute — some 430,000 miles per hour, making it the fastest human-made object.

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Blue Meteorite Crystals Reveal The Sun’s Wild Youth

A tiny hibonite crystal from the Murchison meteorite.

Ancient and rare blue crystals from the dawn of the solar system help confirm that the newborn sun was violently active, a new study reports.

Astronomers previously found that stars are typically incredibly energetic very early in their evolution. Scientists had suspected the same was true of the sun after it was born about 4.6 billion years ago.

The sun was very active in its early life — it had more eruptions and gave off a more intense stream of charged particles,” study co-author Philipp Heck, a curator at The Field Museum in Chicago, said in a statement.

“I think of my son — he’s three; he’s very active, too.”

However, proving this “early active sun hypothesis” is challenging because it is difficult to find material that recorded what the early sun was like and that also survived billions of years unscathed.+




Almost nothing in the solar system is old enough to really confirm the early sun’s activity,” Heck said in the statement.

To hunt for such evidence, the researchers analyzed samples from the Murchison meteorite, which crashed in 1969 near the town of Murchison, in the Australian state of Victoria.

This meteorite, which is kept at The Field Museum in Chicago, dates to the early solar system and is renowned in the scientific community for its abundance of organic molecules.

As the giant disk of gas and dust that surrounded the early sun cooled down about 4.5 billion years ago, the earliest minerals began to form — microscopic, ice-blue crystals named hibonites, the largest of which were only a few times the diameter of a human hair.

Lead author Levke Kööp at work in the lab.

They are likely among the first minerals that formed in the solar system,” study lead author Levke Kööp, a cosmochemist at the University of Chicago said.

If the early sun spewed out lots of energetic particles, some of these should have struck calcium and aluminum in the crystals, splitting those atoms into smaller atoms of neon and helium.

This evidence of an early active sun could have remained trapped unscathed within the crystals for billions of years and been incorporated into rocks that eventually fell to Earth for scientists to study.

The scientists analyzed the crystals using a state-of-the-art mass spectrometer in Switzerland — a garage-sized machine that can determine an object’s chemical makeup.

A tiny hibonite crystal from the Murchison meteorite.

A laser melted tiny grains of hibonite crystals, and the mass spectrometer then analyzed its contents.

The mass spectrometer was specifically designed to look for traces of noble gases, such as helium and neon. The researchers found a surprisingly large signal clearly showing the presence of helium and neon.

This may be the first concrete evidence of the sun’s long-suspected early activity, the researchers said.

Future research on ancient meteorite crystals might help reveal details about the protoplanetary disk of gas and dust around the sun that ultimately gave rise to the planets, such as how hot or cold different parts of this disk were.

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NASA To Launch Car-Size Probe To Study The Sun In August

US space agency NASA is preparing to launch a probe in August to study the Sun closer than any human-made object ever has, revealing multiple mysteries behind the star.

The car-sized spacecraft called Parker Solar Probe is slated to lift off no earlier than August 6 on a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy, according to NASA, Xinhua news agency reported.

The Sun’s atmosphere constantly sends magnetized material outward, enveloping our solar system far beyond the orbit of Pluto.

Coils of magnetic energy can burst out with light and particle radiation that travel through space and create temporary disruptions in our atmosphere, sometimes garbling radio and communications signals near Earth.

Therefore, the key to understanding its origins lies in understanding the Sun itself and that’s where Parker Solar Probe comes in, according to the researchers at NASA.




The spacecraft carries a lineup of instruments to study the Sun both remotely and directly.

One science task is the mystery of the acceleration of the solar wind, the Sun’s constant outflow of material, and the other is the secret of the corona’s enormously high temperatures, according to NASA.

Also, Parker Solar Probe’s instruments might reveal the mechanisms at work behind the acceleration of solar energetic particles, which can reach speeds more than half as fast as the speed of light as they rocket away from the Sun.

Such particles can interfere with satellite electronics, especially for satellites outside of Earth’s magnetic field. The biggest breakthrough for the spacecraft is its cutting-edge heat shield, according to NASA.

The Thermal Protection System (the heat shield) is one of the spacecraft’s mission-enabling technologies,” said Andy Driesman, Parker Solar Probe project manager at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab.

“It allows the spacecraft to operate at about room temperature.

The heat shield is a sandwich of carbon-carbon composite surrounding nearly four and half inches of carbon foam, which is about 97 per cent air.

The Delta IV Heavy is one of the world’s most powerful rockets.

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Unusual Ways To Soothe A Sunburn You Won’t Believe Actually Work

How far would you be willing to go to ease the pain of a nasty sunburn? By the looks of it, you might end up in a very unorthodox bathtub situation.

Soak in milk

Soaking in milk will have a drawing effect on a burn—it’s due to the pH, fat, and cold temperatures,” says Francesca Fusco, MD of Wexler Dermatology in New York City.

If you don’t have enough milk handy to fill up an entire basin, simply soak a washcloth in a bowl of cool milk, then gently lay the milky compresses on the burnt areas of your body.

The milk will help create a protein film along your skin that reduces heat, pain, and sensitivity.




Refrigerate a tub of Vaseline

When you have a sunburn, it is important to keep your skin well-hydrated and moisturized, as it will improve the pain and accelerate the healing process,” says Samer Jaber, MD of Washington Square Dermatology in New York City.

A great trick is putting Vaseline in the refrigerator for a few minutes so it goes on cold. The cold will soothe your sunburn, and the Vaseline will help restore your skin barrier, improving the healing process.

Take an oatmeal bath

One of the worst side effects of a bad sunburn is the insatiable urge to itch peeling skin. To stop yourself and soothe the burn, run a lukewarm bath and add at least one cup of finely ground oats.

Use your hand to swirl the water and distribute the oatmeal, then soak for 15 to 20 minutes.

Oatmeal is a humectant, meaning it helps moisturize skin, and it contains inflammation-quelling compounds,” Ranella Hirsch, MD, a Boston-based dermatologist, told Prevention.

You’ll enjoy the itching relief so much that you’ll probably want to repeat this oatmeal bath a few times a day.

Apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is something of a miracle home remedy when it comes to rashes and burns.

This is because, as an anti-fungal and antiseptic liquid, apple cider vinegar can be used to detoxify your skin.

Simply dab a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar onto your sunburn (do this directly or using a cotton ball). It will not only clean the problem area, but also rehydrate the skin by restoring your pH levels.

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