Feeds

Scientists probe causes of solar flares

Solar-B to launch next week

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

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." ®

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
Renewable energy 'simply WON'T WORK': Top Google engineers
Windmills, solar, tidal - all a 'false hope', say Stanford PhDs
SEX BEAST SEALS may be egging each other on to ATTACK PENGUINS
Boffin: 'I think the behaviour is increasing in frequency'
Post-pub nosh neckfiller: The MIGHTY Scotch egg
Off to the boozer? This delicacy might help mitigate the effects
I'M SO SORRY, sobs Rosetta Brit boffin in 'sexist' sexy shirt storm
'He is just being himself' says proud mum of larger-than-life physicist
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
The next big thing in medical science: POO TRANSPLANTS
Your brother's gonna die, kid, unless we can give him your, well ...
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
prev story

Whitepapers

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.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
5 critical considerations for enterprise cloud backup
Key considerations when evaluating cloud backup solutions to ensure adequate protection security and availability of enterprise data.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence
Download Choosing a Cloud Hosting Provider with Confidence to learn more about cloud computing - the new opportunities and new security challenges.