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#1 Crisp

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Posted 24 January 2013 - 11:05

NASA solves 30-year solar puzzle with 5 minutes and $5 million



Posted Image
The full resolution image is from the solar active region, outlined in the upper left image. Below it are partial frame images
of the braided ensemble, an example of magnetic recognition and flaring, and fine stranded loops. A portion of a filament channel
is shown in the upper right image. (NASA)

Scientists have taken the highest resolution images of the sun’s atmosphere ever, and it offers an explanation for the decades-old mystery of why its outer most layer is up to 800 times hotter than its surface.

Using photos from the High Resolution Coronal Imager (Hi-C) that was flung into space in July, scientists observed small bands of magnetism near the star’s surface twist, turn and braid together before snapping apart, releasing heat and energy flares that heated up the star’s atmosphere. NASA officials described their findings Wednesday.

The sun’s surface is a relatively cool 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit while its atmosphere, or corona, is between 2 million and 4 million degrees. The disparity has long puzzled scientists who study our nearest star.

With a $5-million budget, scientists designed, built and launched a 464-pound, 10-foot telescope into space from White Sands, N.M., in July. The telescope was outside of the atmosphere for only five minutes before it returned to Earth. But in those few minutes, the telescope took high-resolution images of the corona, revealing what the sun’s magnetic fields were doing on a local scale. NASA scientists likened that to taking a high-resolution photo of a dime from 10 miles away.

The images showed how the relatively small magnetic fields braid together into unbearable tension, then snap apart in flares that can be as hot as 7 million degrees. The images supported a theory first introduced in 1983 by American astrophysicist Eugene Parker that small solar flares were heating up the sun’s outer most layer.

“Sometimes this small-scale process stalls, extra stress builds up, and then the relaxation happens on a much larger scale, causing a flare or coronal mass ejection,” said Karel Schrijver, who worked on the mission and is a senior fellow at Lockheed Martin Advanced Technology Center in Palo Alto.

A coronal mass ejection is a violent, massive burst of gas and magnetic fields from the sun. When the explosions are aimed toward Earth, they have been known to knock out power grids and damage satellites. But they can also bring on some pretty sweet northern lights, or Aurora Borealis.

“The flaring on the small scales and on the large scales all happen together,” Schrijver said. “To understand why the solar corona behaves as it does, we need to see both the small and the large to understand how they connect, and ultimately drive space weather.”

Hi-C is part of NASA’s Low Cost Access to Space Program, which uses smaller-scale missions for science investigations, to test future technologies and train upcoming researchers students and engineers. The photos were shot near the peak of the sun’s 11-year cycle, offering scientists their best shot at photographing its smallest flares, researchers said.


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#2 virtorio

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Posted 24 January 2013 - 11:27

That would make a great skybox texture for a new Doom game.

#3 DKAngel

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Posted 24 January 2013 - 11:37

now that is really cool =]

#4 Soldiers33

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Posted 24 January 2013 - 12:11

and how would they know how hot the core of the sun is? This makes no sense. Unless they physcially measured the temprature inside the sun then I call this bs.Its like me looking at a lightbulb I cant reach and saying the surface is hotter than the core becuase I took very high resolution images.

#5 Shaun N.

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Posted 24 January 2013 - 12:13

5 million for that?

#6 vetLOC

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Posted 24 January 2013 - 12:18

now that is really cool =]


No that's pretty hot actually. :D

#7 majortom1981

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Posted 24 January 2013 - 12:43

5 million for that?


Most of that money probably was for the launching it past the atmosphere.

#8 HawkMan

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Posted 24 January 2013 - 12:48

and how would they know how hot the core of the sun is? This makes no sense. Unless they physcially measured the temprature inside the sun then I call this bs.Its like me looking at a lightbulb I cant reach and saying the surface is hotter than the core becuase I took very high resolution images.


Ah, so you're an astro physicist, and know all about how they measure these things.?

#9 George P

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Posted 24 January 2013 - 12:49

Most of that money probably was for the launching it past the atmosphere.


Yeah, sending things up to space isn't cheap.

#10 FloatingFatMan

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Posted 24 January 2013 - 12:55

and how would they know how hot the core of the sun is? This makes no sense. Unless they physcially measured the temprature inside the sun then I call this bs.Its like me looking at a lightbulb I cant reach and saying the surface is hotter than the core becuase I took very high resolution images.


Spectography and mathematics.

#11 Geoffrey B.

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Posted 24 January 2013 - 12:56

still very cool that you can take a picture of the sun and see texture on it while just looking at it can hurt you.

#12 spacer

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Posted 24 January 2013 - 13:19

The telescope was outside of the atmosphere for only five minutes before it returned to Earth.


Is anyone else confused by this statement? They launched a satellite that only flew for 5 minutes? Did it malfunction? Was it only supposed to last 5 minutes? If so, that seems like a huge waste of money.

and how would they know how hot the core of the sun is? This makes no sense. Unless they physcially measured the temprature inside the sun then I call this bs.Its like me looking at a lightbulb I cant reach and saying the surface is hotter than the core becuase I took very high resolution images.


The same way scientists can look at stars thousands of light-years away and be able to tell how big it is, whether it's a binary system, what it's made out of, and among many other things, how hot it is...math, trig, and physics.

Also, the photos solved the mystery of why the Sun's atmosphere is way hotter than the surface. Nothing about the article references the core.

#13 HawkMan

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Posted 24 January 2013 - 13:31

Weather balloons are technically satellites, a satellite isn't necessarily in space. The earliest satellites where balloons used to transmit radio waves.

Basically the satellite in question was never launched even close to high enough to reach orbit, only to grout side the visually disturbing atmosphere. To get in orbit it would have cost 100 times just to launch, andthen the satellite would have had to be designed to actually stay in spaces well. Instead of just get there and take pictures and return. So it would have cost 100 times as much as well, maybe more.

This one did what they needed for cheap. And served as a technology tested for future in space technology/satellite. Replacing tests that would have cost at least a much.

#14 watkinsx2

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Posted 24 January 2013 - 13:43

To get in orbit it would have cost 100 times just to launch


Falcon 9 is only 50 odd million to orbit but still a lot more money.

#15 Soldiers33

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Posted 24 January 2013 - 13:49

Ah, so you're an astro physicist, and know all about how they measure these things.?

so you believe everything they say? They could be chatting rubbish but no one can prove it so everyone believes it.