Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

NASA Spacecraft Make First 3-D Images Of Sun

Date:
April 23, 2007
Source:
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Summary:
NASA's twin Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO) spacecraft have made the first three-dimensional images of the sun. The new view will greatly aid scientists' ability to understand solar physics and thereby improve space weather forecasting.

Image of our Sun was captured by SECCHI/Extreme Ultraviolet Imaging Telescope. This image combines all of STEREO's wavelengths into one picture. Combining all the wavelength allows scientists to compare different features and wavelengths.
Credit: NASA

NASA's twin Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO) spacecraft have made the first three-dimensional images of the sun. The new view will greatly aid scientists' ability to understand solar physics and thereby improve space weather forecasting.

"The improvement with STEREO's 3-D view is like going from a regular X-ray to a 3-D CAT scan in the medical field," said Michael Kaiser, the mission's project scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

The spacecraft were launched October 25, 2006. On January 21 they completed a series of complex maneuvers, including flying by the moon, to position the spacecraft in their mission orbits. The two observatories are now orbiting the sun, one slightly ahead of Earth and one slightly behind, separating from each other by approximately 45 degrees per year. Just as the slight offset between a person's eyes provides depth perception, the separation of spacecraft allows 3-D images of the sun. The new 3-D images are generated by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

Violent solar weather originates in the sun's atmosphere, or corona, and can disrupt satellites, radio communication, and power grids on Earth. The corona resembles wispy smoke plumes, which flow outward along the sun's tangled magnetic fields. It is difficult for scientists to tell which structures are in front and which are behind.

"In the solar atmosphere, there are no clues to help us judge distance. Everything appears flat in the 2-D plane of the sky. Having a stereo perspective just makes it so much easier," said Russell Howard of the Naval Research Laboratory, Washington, the principal investigator for the Sun Earth Connection Coronal and Heliospheric Investigation suite of telescopes on the spacecraft.

"With STEREO's 3-D imagery, we'll be able to discern where matter and energy flows in the solar atmosphere much more precisely than with the 2-D views available before. This will really help us understand the complex physics going on," said Howard.

The mission's depth perception also will help improve space weather forecasts. Of particular concern is a destructive type of solar eruption called a coronal mass ejection. These are eruptions of electrically charged gas, called plasma, from the sun's atmosphere. A coronal mass ejection cloud can contain billions of tons of plasma and move at a million miles per hour.

Such a cloud is laced with magnetic fields, and coronal mass ejections directed toward Earth smash into our planet's magnetic field. If the coronal mass ejection magnetic fields have the proper orientation, they dump energy and particles into Earth's magnetic field. This causes magnetic storms that can overload power line equipment and radiation storms that disrupt satellites.

Satellite and utility operators can take precautions to minimize coronal mass ejection damage, but they need an accurate forecast of when one will arrive. To do this, forecasters need to know the location of the front of the coronal mass ejection cloud. STEREO will allow scientists to accurately locate the cloud front. "Knowing where the front of the CME [coronal mass ejection] cloud is will improve estimates of the arrival time from within a day or so to just a few hours," said Howard. "STEREO also will help forecasters estimate how severe the resulting magnetic storm will be."

"In addition to the STEREO perspective of solar features, STEREO for the first time will allow imaging of the solar disturbances the entire way from the sun to the Earth. Presently, scientists are only able to model this region in the dark, from only one picture of solar disturbances leaving the sun and reaching only a fraction of the sun-Earth distance," said Madhulika Guhathakurta, the mission's program scientist at NASA Headquarters, Washington.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "NASA Spacecraft Make First 3-D Images Of Sun." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 April 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/04/070423130130.htm>.
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. (2007, April 23). NASA Spacecraft Make First 3-D Images Of Sun. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/04/070423130130.htm
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "NASA Spacecraft Make First 3-D Images Of Sun." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/04/070423130130.htm (accessed August 28, 2014).

Share This




More Earth & Climate News

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Big Waves, Minor Flooding from Hurricane

Big Waves, Minor Flooding from Hurricane

AP (Aug. 27, 2014) Thundering surf spawned by Hurricane Marie pounded the Southern California coast Wednesday, causing minor flooding in a low-lying beach town. High surf warnings were posted for Los Angeles County south through Orange County. (Aug. 27) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Calif. Quake Underscores Need for Early Warning

Calif. Quake Underscores Need for Early Warning

AP (Aug. 26, 2014) Researchers at UC Berkeley are testing a prototype of an earthquake early warning system that California is pursuing years after places like Mexico and Japan already have them up and running. (August 26) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Hurricane Marie Brings Big Waves to California Coast

Hurricane Marie Brings Big Waves to California Coast

Reuters - US Online Video (Aug. 26, 2014) Huge waves generated by Hurricane Marie hit the Southern California coast. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Brazil Tries Genetically Modified Mosquitoes to Fight Dengue

Brazil Tries Genetically Modified Mosquitoes to Fight Dengue

AFP (Aug. 25, 2014) A factory in the industrial state of Sao Paulo produces genetically modified mosquitoes to fight dengue, a deadly tropical disease more prevalent in Brazil than anywhere else in the world. Duration: 00:57 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins