Fri, Sep 22, 2006
Probe Will Study Solar Flares
Friday is Sun day for
Japan, because that's when they plan to launch Solar-B -- a
satellite meant to study our sun. Liftoff is scheduled for 5:00 pm
EDT from Uchinoura Space Center.
In cooperation with the ESA, the Japanese Aerospace Exploration
Agency (JAXA) will place Solar-B in a northern polar orbit over
Earth. From that position -- outside of the image-distorting
effects of the Earth's atmosphere -- Solar-B will have a clear view
of the sun for at least nine months each year.
The Japanese are interested in so-called solar flares, and other
violent solar activity. To that end, Solar-B will study the sun's
outer atmosphere (bet you didn't know the sun had an atmosphere)
and carefully study its magnetic fields -- believed to be the
trigger of all the solar misbehavior.
Scientists believe solar eruptions occur when the sun's magnetic
fields lines interact with each other causing solar flares --
eruptions tossing massive clouds of plasma, some the size of earth,
into space. These eruptions cause ripples in the solar wind and
disrupt the earth's magnetic field. Solar flares are also known to
wreak havoc with communication systems world-wide.
Solar-B will use three sensitive telescopes to complete its
three-year-mission. One is purely optical; the other two can see
x-ray and ultraviolet emissions.
Japanese technicians built the spacecraft and the optical
scope... but the other two instruments were assembled in the US
under Japanese supervision. One thing's for sure... Solar-B is a
long way from the shoe box with a pin-hole we used to look at solar
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