Feeds

Scientists probe causes of solar flares

Solar-B to launch next week

Build a business case: developing custom apps

Next week, Japanese space agency JAXA will launch Solar-B, an orbital observatory designed to investigate the causes of solar flares and coronal mass ejections, the huge eruptions from the surface of the Sun.

Although flares themselves are reasonably well understood, the mechanism that produces them is not, and scientists are not able to make good predictions about solar weather patterns.

Solar-B will measure the movement of magnetic fields and track how the solar atmosphere responds. The observatory will be able to distinguish between the normal background activity on the sun's surface, and the changes that will build-up to a flare, the researchers say.

Watching the Sun is not easy, however, as anything in orbit around Earth will have days and nights - periods when it cannot see the Sun.

"The Sun behaves unpredictably and will be as likely to flare during spacecraft night when Solar-B would be behind the Earth," says Professor Len Culhane, principal investigator of the EIS instrument.

To maximise viewing time, the craft will be inserted into a particular kind of polar orbit that will allow it to observe the Sun for nine months of the year.

The craft, a joint project between Japan, the US, and the UK, will carry three telescopes to study the sun in different wavelengths: optical, X-ray and extreme UV. The latter, the Extreme Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrometer (EIS), was provided by the UK, and is designed to catch the tiniest changes in the solar surface in the build up to a flare.

This so-called "trigger phase" is key to being able to make predictions about flares and CMEs.

"Solar flares are so fast and furious they can cause communication black-outs at Earth within 30 minutes of a flare erupting on the Sun's surface," says Professor Louise Harra, the UK Solar-B project scientist based at UCL's Mullard Space Science Laboratory.

"It's imperative that we understand what triggers these events with the ultimate aim of being able to predict them with greater accuracy." ®

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

More from The Register

next story
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
Asteroid's DINO KILLING SPREE just bad luck – boffins
Sauricide WASN'T inevitable, reckon scientists
Flamewars in SPAAACE: cooler fires hint at energy efficiency
Experiment aboard ISS shows we should all chill out for cleaner engines
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
NASA Mars rover FINALLY equals 1973 Soviet benchmark
Yet to surpass ancient Greek one, however
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
BEST BATTERY EVER: All lithium, all the time, plus a dash of carbon nano-stuff
We have found the Holy Grail (of batteries) - boffins
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Backing up Big Data
Solving backup challenges and “protect everything from everywhere,” as we move into the era of big data management and the adoption of BYOD.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.