NASA selects Stanford team to design and direct major solar experiment for 2007 launch

August 23, 2002

NASA has selected a team of astrophysicists at Stanford University to design and oversee the primary experiment aboard the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) - a new research satellite scheduled for launch in August 2007.

According to NASA officials, part of SDO's mission is to learn how to predict destructive flares and solar storms generated by the Sun's mysterious magnetic fields. The satellite will be designed to remain in geosynchronous orbit 22,000 miles above Earth for at least five years, providing a constant stream of data about the complex magnetic fields generated deep in the solar interior.

"SDO's inclined orbit will form a figure-8 over the Earth during the day, giving us continuous, 24-hour-a-day sunlight for most of the year," said Stanford physics Professor Philip H. Scherrer, principal investigator of SDO's lead experiment called the Helioseismic Magnetic Imager (HMI).

Scherrer and his Stanford colleagues will oversee construction of the HMI instrument in collaboration with engineers at the Lockheed Martin Solar and Astrophysics Laboratory in Palo Alto, Calif. The instrument will be designed to generate three-dimensional pictures of the solar interior using a technique known as "helioseismology," which maps the inside of the Sun by measuring the velocity of low-frequency sound waves that ricochet below the surface.

Scherrer is currently principal investigator of a similar Stanford-based experiment called the Michelson Doppler Imager (MDI) now on board the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) - a satellite jointly operated by NASA and the European Space Agency. Launched aboard SOHO in 1995, MDI has given scientists their first glimpse of the powerful subsurface flows that produce sunspots and solar flares. According to Scherrer, the HMI instrument aboard SDO will allow researchers to create 3-D images of solar magnetic regions and surface magnetic fields in much greater detail.

MDI and the other experiments aboard SOHO are expected to continue until the new SDO spacecraft comes online in 2007. SDO is the first mission in NASA's Living With a Star (LWS) program - a long-range project designed to study the dynamics that drive the intricate Earth-Sun system.

"The Sun is a magnetic star, and we live in its extended atmosphere" Scherrer noted. "High-speed solar winds, mass ejections and flares are all linked to the variability of magnetic fields that originate in the solar interior. Many of these phenomena can have profound impacts on our technological society - disrupting radio communications and causing power outages. A driving purpose of LWS is to understand enough about the Sun's magnetic variability so that we can predict when these events will affect Earth."

In addition to HMI, the SDO spacecraft will carry two related experiments to be led by scientists at the University of Colorado-Boulder and the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C. According to NASA officials, the total cost of SDO's payload from development through five years of operation will be about $123 million -- of which $65 million is budgeted for HMI.
-end-
-By Mark Shwartz-

CONTACT: Mark Shwartz, News Service (650) 723-9296; mshwartz@stanford.edu

COMMENT: Philip Scherrer, Hansen Experimental Physics Laboratory (650) 723-1504; pscherrer@solar.Stanford.EDU

Relevant Web URLs:
http://lws.gsfc.nasa.gov
http://sun.Stanford.edu
http://hmi.stanford.edu/proposal_April_2002/HMI_view_proposal_public.pdf

Stanford University

Related Magnetic Fields Articles from Brightsurf:

Physicists circumvent centuries-old theory to cancel magnetic fields
A team of scientists including two physicists at the University of Sussex has found a way to circumvent a 178-year old theory which means they can effectively cancel magnetic fields at a distance.

Magnetic fields on the moon are the remnant of an ancient core dynamo
An international simulation study by scientists from the US, Australia, and Germany, shows that alternative explanatory models such as asteroid impacts do not generate sufficiently large magnetic fields.

Modelling extreme magnetic fields and temperature variation on distant stars
New research is helping to explain one of the big questions that has perplexed astrophysicists for the past 30 years - what causes the changing brightness of distant stars called magnetars.

Could megatesla magnetic fields be realized on Earth?
A team of researchers led by Osaka University discovered a novel mechanism called a ''microtube implosion,'' demonstrating the generation of megatesla-order magnetic fields, which is three orders of magnitude higher than those ever experimentally achieved.

Superconductors are super resilient to magnetic fields
A Professor at the University of Tsukuba provides a new theoretical mechanism that explains the ability of superconductive materials to bounce back from being exposed to a magnetic field.

A tiny instrument to measure the faintest magnetic fields
Physicists at the University of Basel have developed a minuscule instrument able to detect extremely faint magnetic fields.

Graphene sensors find subtleties in magnetic fields
Cornell researchers used an ultrathin graphene ''sandwich'' to create a tiny magnetic field sensor that can operate over a greater temperature range than previous sensors, while also detecting miniscule changes in magnetic fields that might otherwise get lost within a larger magnetic background.

Twisting magnetic fields for extreme plasma compression
A new spin on the magnetic compression of plasmas could improve materials science, nuclear fusion research, X-ray generation and laboratory astrophysics, research led by the University of Michigan suggests.

How magnetic fields and 3D printers will create the pills of tomorrow
Doctors could soon be administering an entire course of treatment for life-threatening conditions with a 3D printed capsule controlled by magnetic fields thanks to advances made by University of Sussex researchers.

Researchers develop ultra-sensitive device for detecting magnetic fields
The new magnetic sensor is inexpensive to make, works on minimal power and is 20 times more sensitive than many traditional sensors.

Read More: Magnetic Fields News and Magnetic Fields Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.