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Archive for April 29, 2015

NJIT’s New Solar Telescope Unveils The Complex Dynamics Of Sunspots’ Dark Cores


NJIT’s Big Bear Solar Observatory

NJIT’s Big Bear Solar Observatory

Groundbreaking images of the Sun captured by scientists at NJIT’s Big Bear Solar Observatory (BBSO) give a first-ever detailed view of the interior structure of umbrae – the dark patches in the center of sunspots – revealing dynamic magnetic fields responsible for the plumes of plasma that emerge as bright dots interrupting their darkness. Their research is being presented this week at the first Triennial Earth-Sun Summit meeting between the American Astronomical Society’s Solar Physics Division and the American Geophysical Union’s Space Physics and Aeronomy section in Indianapolis, Ind.

The high-resolution images, taken through the observatory’s New Solar Telescope (NST), show the atmosphere above the umbrae to be finely structured, consisting of hot plasma intermixed with cool plasma jets as wide as 100 kilometers.

“We would describe these plasma flows as oscillating cool jets piercing the hot atmosphere. Until now, we didn’t know they existed. While we have known for a long time that sunspots oscillate – moderate resolution telescopes show us dark shadows, or penumbral waves, moving across the umbra toward the edge of a sunspot – we can now begin to understand the underlying dynamics,” said Vasyl Yurchyshyn, a research professor of physics at NJIT and the lead author of two recent journal articles based on the NST observations.

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Astronomers Discover Three Super-Earths Orbiting Nearby Star


Artist’s impression. Art by Karen Teramura & BJ Fulton, UH IfA.

Artist’s impression. Art by Karen Teramura & BJ Fulton, UH IfA.

Astronomers have discovered a planetary system orbiting a star only 54 light-years away with the Automated Planet Finder (APF) at Lick Observatory and ground-based telescopes in Hawaii and Arizona.

The team discovered the planets by detecting a wobble of the star HD 7924, a result of the gravitational pull of the planets orbiting around it. All three planets orbit the star at a distance closer than Mercury orbits the sun, completing their orbits in just 5, 15, and 24 days.

The APF facility at Lick Observatory offers a way for astronomers to speed up the exoplanet search. The fully-robotic telescope searches for planets every clear night of the year, so planets and their orbits can be discovered and traced quickly.

“The APF is great for two reasons. One, it has the superb Levy spectrometer. Two, it is a modern computer controlled telescope so we can automate it. This combination means that we can observe stars night and night out to look for the wobble,” said Bradford Holden, an Associate Research Astronomer for UC Observatories (UCO) who helped to make the telescope robotic.

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