Menu
Scientific news and articles
Male pipefish decide who survives
Saturn's rings a chaotic clutter
Researchers develop desal on a chip
Final missing piece of insulin lock found
Volcano helped dinosaurs gain upper hand
Bouncing current could speed up charge
Bleaching leaves Lord Howe reef 'on knife edge'
Floor price for booze good as taxes, study
Concerns over varroa mite resistance
Microbes breathe life into oxygen theory
Pre-history rewritten as new human discovered
Dung beetle claims strongest insect title
Scientists unearth Australian tyrannosaur
Splitting cyclone reveals Neptune's nature
Junk food can become addictive: study
Bumblebees have superfast colour vision
Black holes may be 'missing dark matter'
Magnets can manipulate morality: study
Sun helps bats find home in the dark
LHC to begin 'Big Bang' project
Trial of bionic eye within three years
Easter eggs may be good for your heart
Mega-flood triggered European ice age
Finch genome music to researcher's ears
Solar spacecraft begins study of our Sun
Scientists are seeing the violent and dynamic processes of the Sun in unprecedented detail thanks to a new spacecraft launched by the United States.

The 'first light' data from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) is providing extreme close-ups of the Sun's surface, including never-before-seen detail of material streaming outward and away from sunspots.

Scientists with NASA's Goddard Space Flight Centre say SDO will change their understanding of the Sun and its processes, having an impact similar to what the Hubble Space Telescope did for modern astrophysics.

Launched back on 11 February, SDO is the most advanced spacecraft ever designed to study the Sun.
Space weather

"It's a powerful new tool to help scientists understand solar activity like coronal mass ejections and solar flares which can have a huge impact for life on Earth," says Professor Iver Cairns from the School of Physics at the University of Sydney.

"SDO will provide critical data to improve sciences ability to predict space weather events."

Cairns says understanding space weather is important because of its impact on communications systems, spacecraft electronics and power supplies on the ground.

"In 1987, a black out in Quebec, Canada caused by a solar storm left four million people without power, some for up to six months," he says.

Dr Steven Marsden, a stellar astronomer with the Anglo Australian Observatory, says the resolution of images from SDO is the best he's ever seen.

"It will us help study the Sun's magnetic activity, which is driven by an internal dynamo and a combination of heat convection and differential rotation," he says.

"While we have an understanding of this process, we still don't understand a lot of the finer details of how it operates."
Climate change

Marsden says SDO will also help scientists understand the relationship between sunspot activity and climate change on Earth.

"During a period called the Maunder Minimum (1645-1715), sunspot activity almost completely disappeared. It coincided with a mini-ice age when the Thames River froze and there were colder than usual conditions across Europe," he says.

SDO carries a Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager, which maps solar magnetic fields. It can also 'look' beneath the Sun's opaque surface using ultrasound.

Another key instrument is the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly, a group of four telescopes, which will study the Sun's surface and atmosphere in 10 different wavelength bands.

"Because it operates at different wavelengths ... SDO will help us understand what's going on inside the Sun's dynamo," says Marsden.

The third major component is the Extreme Ultraviolet Variability Experiment which measures fluctuations in the Sun's radiant emissions. These emissions have a direct effect on Earth's upper atmosphere.

Print
New Zealand's GM livestock given reprieve
Nano diamonds to become a doctor's best friend
Ocean saltiness reaching new limits
Volcanic ash unlikely to cool planet
Silk forms 'intimate' brain connection
New drug improves hepatitis C outcome
Microbial life discovered in asphalt lake
Green tea may strengthen your teeth
Head-ramming dino had 'gears' in skull
Clever crows show innovative behaviour
Research casts doubt on brain training
Multiple unknowns cloud volcano's impact
Staying fit helps men 'do it longer'
Copenhagen sets Earth for more warming
Solar spacecraft begins study of our Sun
Mixed messages on gene patenting
Gene study finds multiple species of orca
Dreaming boosts learning and creativity
Scientists measure massive ocean current
Genes influence smoking addiction: study
Nanowires create volts of electricity
Fisheries urged to diversify their 'take'
Chimps confront death in human-like ways
Chile to host world's biggest telescope
Trapping light to improve solar cells
Experts debate use of HPV test
Japan to launch 'space yacht'
Sea ice loss key to Arctic warming, study
Menu
Australian lasers to track orbiting junk
Thawing nitrous oxide overlooked: study
'Sound bullets' could blast cancer
Lasers could spark clean nuclear power
Seaweed slows black sea snakes down
Asteroid impacts cause crustal crisis: study
Flu jab link to increased H1N1 risk: study
Intestinal germ helps sushi digestion
Researcher closes in on freezing conundrum
Test identifies smokers at highest risk
New species of human found in 'death trap'
'Planet of love' still hot and active
Stress takes its toll on tiny lizard
Scientists record world's tiniest nudge
Cell signals shed light on breast cancer
Parasites behind seasonal allergies
Study finds maternal deaths falling
Pluto's family set to grow tenfold
Diet cuts Alzheimer's risk: study
Whales get physical when seas get rough
'Tweets' could warn of future epidemics
Quolls force-fed toads in survival fight
Researchers question use of silver dressings
Scientists create truly random numbers