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SDO Spots a Late Phase in Solar Flares

September 8, 2011 Leave a comment

Credit: NASA/SDO/Tom Woods

Credit: NASA/SDO/Tom Woods

The sun’s surface dances. Giant loops of magnetized solar material burst up, twist, and fall back down. Some erupt, shooting radiation flares and particles out into space. Forced to observe this dance from afar, scientists use all the tools at their disposal to look for patterns and connections to discover what causes these great explosions. Mapping these patterns could help scientists predict the onset of space weather that bursts toward Earth from the sun, interfering with communications and Global Positioning System (GPS) signals.

Analysis of 191 solar flares since May 2010 by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) has recently shown a new piece in the pattern: some 15 percent of the flares have a distinct “late phase flare” some minutes to hours later that has never before been fully observed. This late phase of the flare pumps much more energy out into space than previously realized.

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/sdo/news/late-phase-flares.html

Cosmic Crashes Forging Gold

September 8, 2011 Leave a comment

Natural gold nuggets from California and Australia; Natural History Museum, London

Natural gold nuggets from California and Australia; Natural History Museum, London

The cosmic site where the heaviest chemical elements such as lead or gold are formed is likely to be identified: Ejected matter from neutron stars merging in a violent collision provides ideal conditions. In detailed numerical simulations, scientists of the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics (MPA) and affiliated to the Excellence Cluster Universe and of the Free University of Brussels (ULB) have verified that the relevant reactions of atomic nuclei do take place in this environment, producing the heaviest elements in the correct abundances.

Most heavy chemical elements are formed in nuclear fusion reactions in stars. Also in the centre of our Sun, hydrogen is ”burned“ to create helium, thereby releasing energy. Heavier elements are then produced from helium if the star is more massive than our Sun. This process, however, only works up to iron; further fusion reactions do not yield any net energy gain. Therefore heavier elements cannot be produced in this fashion. Instead, they can be assembled when neutrons are captured onto ”seed“-nuclei, which then decay radioactively.

Full Story: http://www.mpa-garching.mpg.de/mpa/institute/news_archives/news1109_janka/news1109_janka-en.html

NASA GRAIL Moon Mission Launch Rescheduled

September 8, 2011 Leave a comment

The launch of a Delta II vehicle carrying NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) was scrubbed today, Thursday, Sept. 8, due to weather. Conditions associated with upper level winds were in violation of the launch criteria.

The Delta II and GRAIL are safe and secure at this time. The launch is rescheduled for Friday, Sept. 9, from Space Launch Complex-17B at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. There are two instantaneous launch opportunities at 5:33:25 a.m. PDT (8:33:25 a.m. EDT) and 6:12:31 a.m. PDT (9:12:31 a.m. EDT). The forecast for tomorrow (Sept. 9) shows a 40 percent chance of favorable weather conditions for the launch.

Full Story: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2011-280