Hinode scientists' stellar effort keeps sun mission 'burning bright'

August 14, 2012

Whilst the most powerful earthquake since records began hit Japan in 2011, triggering a massive tsunami which devastated much of the country, space scientists involved in one of the 'brightest' international Sun missions continued working tirelessly at the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science in Sagamihara, Japan, to capture new data from our turbulent star.

These latest Hinode results, to be discussed in a meeting at the University of St Andrews this week, include new data on the structure of the Sun's coronal magnetic field, obtained whilst studying a violent , and the observation of an unusual in our star's magnetic field – a finding that could have a significant impact on the behaviour and prediction of the next solar cycle. The new results will be presented by David Long (UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory) and Masumi Shimojo (National Astronomical Observatory of Japan) respectively.

The Hinode mission is led by the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) in collaboration with the UK, USA and European Space Agency. The UK Space Agency funds the operation of the Extreme ultraviolet Imaging Spectrometer (EIS) - a UK-led instrument, building on the UK's long history of pioneering work in solar ultraviolet spectroscopy. The Mullard Space Science Laboratory (MSSL) is the lead institute for EIS, and STFC's RAL Space provided the calibration and observing software.

Louise Harra, UK Principal Investigator for the Hinode EIS instrument and Professor of Solar Physics at UCL Mullard Science Laboratory, said, "The latest Hinode results will allow us to probe the Sun's activity both on short time scales of minutes, and on the longer scales of years, both of which are critical to understanding our nearest star."

Solar flares and associated coronal mass ejections have a wide range of effects on technology infrastructure and our day to day lives, potentially disturbing the Earth's magnetic field, knocking-out orbiting satellites and disrupting satellite signals. The impacts are wide-ranging, affecting radio communication, navigation and power systems. With its three advanced and highly sensitive telescopes (visible, X-ray and ultraviolet), the Hinode spacecraft is studying the solar magnetic field at scales smaller than ever before and revealing new information about these colossal explosions in the Sun's atmosphere.

In recent years there have been disruptions to power grids, spacecraft have been lost completely and more than half the Earth orbiting spacecraft were affected in their operation by high energetic particles that bombard the Earth's atmosphere during a storm. We are dependent on spacecraft for everything from navigation to using credit cards, so predicting the impact of such storms is important for a technology- driven world.

The Hinode mission acts as a microscope on the Sun. The instruments onboard probe in detail the generation, transport, and dissipation of magnetic energy from the photosphere to the corona and are recording how energy stored in the Sun's magnetic field is released as the field rises into the Sun's outer atmosphere.

This can unleash huge amounts of energy in only tens of minutes. An example of this was observed on the 12th July, where a huge flare exploded on the Sun, leading to disruption to radio communications and a reduction in the power output of a nuclear power station on the east coast of the US. The data from are being analyzed in order to determine quantitative measurements of the pre-flare Sun to assist in predicting activity.

Explore further: Solar- B : Probing the most energetic explosions in the solar system

Related Stories

Hinode helps unravel long-standing solar mysteries

August 22, 2007

A year after launch, scientists working with Hinode, a Japanese mission with ESA participation, are meeting at Trinity College, Dublin, to discuss latest findings on solar mysteries - including new insights on solar flares ...

Science with the solar space observatory Hinode

March 20, 2008

The solar space observatory Hinode was launched in September 2006, with the name "Hinode" meaning sunrise in Japanese. The Hinode satellite carries a solar optical telescope (SOT), an X-ray telescope (XRT), and an EUV imaging ...

Solar winds triggered by magnetic fields

November 2, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Solar wind generated by the sun is probably driven by a process involving powerful magnetic fields, according to a new study led by UCL (University College London) researchers based on the latest observations ...

Hinode looks into a hole on the Sun

February 9, 2011

On Feb. 1, 2011, the Hinode satellite captured this breathtaking image of a coronal hole, seen in the top center of the image. A polar coronal hole can also be seen at the bottom of the image.

Astronomers shed new light on explosive solar activity

July 1, 2012

(Phys.org) -- The first images of an upward surge of the Sun's gases into quiescent coronal loops have been identified by an international team of scientists. The discovery is one more step towards understanding the origins ...

Recommended for you

Orbiter views Mars surface fractures

October 8, 2015

The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera aboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter often takes images of Martian sand dunes to study the mobile soils. These images provide information about erosion and ...

NASA measuring the pulsating aurora

October 7, 2015

Thanks to a lucky conjunction of two satellites, a ground-based array of all-sky cameras, and some spectacular aurora borealis, researchers have uncovered evidence for an unexpected role that electrons have in creating the ...

How to prepare for Mars? NASA consults Navy sub force

October 5, 2015

As NASA contemplates a manned voyage to Mars and the effects missions deeper into space could have on astronauts, it's tapping research from another outfit with experience sending people to the deep: the U.S. Navy submarine ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.