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Subject Matter Expert Presentations | Solar Orbiter

Feb 06, 2020 - Feb 08, 2020 | 11:00 AM and 2:00 PM Journey to Mars: Explorers Wanted

In anticipation of the launch of Solar Orbiter from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, you can hear from subject matter experts in Journey to Mars: Explorers Wanted about this milestone mission that will study the sun. Presentations are included with admission and the topics and schedules are as follows:


February 6, 2020 11:00 AM

Space Climate: From Robotic Spacecraft to the Bristlecone Pine by Matthew Owens, Professor of Space Physics at the University of Reading and a Visiting Professor at Imperial College London We live with a magnetically active star. The space weather produced by magnetic activity -- such as solar flares and eruptions-- can damage power grids and satellites, disrupt GPS and communications, and pose a severe health risk to astronauts. We routinely use spacecraft data and supercomputer simulations to forecast solar storms up to a day or two ahead. But for many applications, such as human spaceflight to Mars, we need to predict space weather not days, but decades, ahead. The first step is reconstructing how the space climate has varied in the distant past. This requires bringing together sophisticated measurements from spacecraft such as Solar Orbiter with historic sunspot records and information in natural reservoirs, such as trees and ice sheets.


February 6, 2020 2:00 PM

Sun as an Efficient Particle Accelerator by Milan Maksimovic, Directeur de Recherche with CNRS (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique) and a permanent senior scientist at the Space Sciences Laboratory (LESIA) of the Paris Observatory, France

The Sun is a very efficient particle accelerator. During solar flares bursts of ultra-fast energized particles can be injected into the interplanetary space. The Earth’s magnetic field and atmosphere protect us on the ground from most of the possible harmful effects of these particles. When it comes, however, to future space-maned mission into the interplanetary space, this protection becomes less obvious and a prediction of these solar event becomes important with the necessity of properly measuring and characterizing these energetic particles. Usually this is made possible by the use of specific analyzers on board space probes, provided that the latter pass through the stream of solar energetic particles. In my presentation I will describe you how it is possible, in the case of energetic electrons, to detect all of the solar events, even those not passing by the spacecraft, by listening to the radio emissions that are produced. This type of measurement is one of the scientific objectives of the RPW (Radio & Plasma Waves) Instrument of the Solar Orbiter spacecraft.


February 7, 2020 11:00 AM

Finding the Headwaters of the Solar Wind by C.E. DeForest and the SPICE Instrument Team

The Sun is constantly spraying out “solar wind” — a very tenuous, very fast-moving torrent of hot gas that fills our solar system and sweeps around Earth on its way to interstellar space. We’ve measured the solar wind in space for over 50 years, and anyone who has been to an eclipse has seen the roots of the solar wind extending through the Sun’s corona. But understanding which parts of the corona accelerate to become solar wind, let alone how and why they do, still baffles solar physicists. Solar Orbiter is designed to identify the origin of particular packets of solar wind on the Sun’s surface, by comparing the composition of jets seen on the solar surface with composition of the wind as it sweeps over the spacecraft. I’ll talk about how Solar Orbiter will attack this decades-old mystery.


February 7, 2020 2:00 PM

Peter Gallagher, Solar Orbiter Subject Matter Expert


February 8, 2020 11:00 AM

Mapping the Surface of the Sun with SPICE by Don Hassler, a Co-Principal Investigator of the SPICE instrument on Solar Orbiter

SPICE is a spectral imager on Solar Orbiter that maps the Sun’s plasma (or hot gas) as it seethes off the solar surface and escapes into the solar wind. SPICE images the plasma by splitting the light from the Sun into several different wavelengths of ultraviolet light and measures how much of each wavelength is present. Because different gases at different temperatures emit light at different wavelengths, analyzing the light with SPICE gives us a big picture understanding of the structures and flows on the surface and how these gases escape into outer space to form the solar wind. I will talk about how SPICE works and how it contributes to the science of Solar Orbiter.

Mapping the Source of the Solar Wind with Solar Orbiter by Don Hassler, a Co-Principal Investigator of the SPICE instrument on Solar Orbiter The Sun’s plasma seethes from the solar surface into outer space to create the solar wind. There are primarily two types of solar wind: the slow solar wind traveling at 200-300 miles per second, and the fast solar wind that rips through space at twice that speed. Understanding the origins of these different types of solar wind is one of the primary objectives of Solar Orbiter. I will talk about two of the instruments that will be used map the source regions of the solar wind on the surface of the Sun and trace these maps to measurements made at the Solar Orbiter spacecraft.


February 8, 2020 2:00 PM

Solar Orbiter and Our Nearest Star by Tim Horbury, Professor of Physics at Imperial College London and leads the team which built the magnetic field instrument on the Solar Orbiter mission The Sun is our nearest star – and its moods can affect our lives on Earth as well as satellites in orbit above our heads. Solar activity is driven by its complex, tangled magnetic field and this field is carried into interplanetary space by the hot flow of particles we call the solar wind. When the interplanetary magnetic field interacts with the Earth’s magnetic field, it can produce the aurora, but also knock out satellites and harm astronauts. I will describe what we know about the Sun’s magnetic field, how we measure it and how Solar Orbiter will help us understand and predict its behaviour.

The Solar Orbiter spacecraft in the IABG magnetic field simulation facility in Ottobrunn, Germany.

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