The Sun dominates the Solar System in almost every way imaginable, yet much of its inner workings have been hidden from humanity. Over the centuries, and especially in the last few decades, technological advancements allowed us to ignore our mothers’ exhortations and stare at the Sun for as long as we want. We’ve learned a lot from all those observations.
A new study shows how the Sun experiences its own ‘meteor showers.’
These so-called meteor showers are nothing like the meteor showers we enjoy on a summer’s evening. Instead, they’re clumps of plasma formed by localized cooling. The European Space Agency’s Solar Orbiter captured images of them.
A meteor shower occurs when Earth passes through a cloud of dust particles, usually from a passing comet. As these tiny particles strike Earth’s atmosphere, the friction heats them up, and they burn. Some meteor showers produce more than 1000 meteors per hour.
There are no meteor showers on the Sun. Its powerful solar wind prevents dust from encroaching into its space. But new research from European scientists shows that there’s something strange going on in the Sun. Meteor-like fireballs of plasma can fall onto its surface.
A team of researchers headed by Patrick Antolin, Assistant Professor at Northumbria University, presented their results at the National Astronomy Meeting at Cardiff University. They’ll also be published in a forthcoming paper in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics titled “Extreme-ultraviolet fine structure and variability associated with coronal rain revealed by Solar Orbiter/EUI HRIEUV and SPICE.”
Astrophysicists call this unusual phenomenon ‘coronal rain.’ The corona is the Sun’s outer layer. It reaches millions of kilometres into space, and it’s extremely hot. The extreme heat means the corona is made of plasma. But it’s also subject to temperature fluctuations.
“Just detecting coronal rain is a huge step forward for solar physics because it gives us important clues about the major solar mysteries, such as how it is heated to millions of degrees.”
Patrick Antolin, Northumbria University
When the local temperature drops, the plasma can condense into huge, super-dense clumps. These clumps have nowhere to go but down, back to the Sun. The clumps are enormous, up to 250km wide, according to the new observations. And they don’t fall gently. The Sun’s powerful gravity drags them down at over 100 km per second.
This image from the research shows the Earth to scale on the left, and several tracks from falling clumps of plasma marked in red. The ESA’s Solar Orbiter captured this image in March 2022. Image Credit: Patrick Antolin. Background image: ESA/Solar Orbiter EUI/HRI
To capture these images, the Solar Orbiter came within 49 million kilometres of the Sun. This close approach allowed the highest-resolution images ever taken of the Sun’s corona. The orbiter also observed the heating and compression of gas immediately below the clumps of solar rain. The temperature and pressure rise dramatically in the clumps, and the temperature gradually falls again as the clumps fall back to the Sun.
When they fall back to the Sun, these clumps don’t burn up like Earthly meteor showers. Instead, they’re partially ionized and follow the Sun’s powerful magnetic field lines as they fall to the surface. The clumps can produce a brief yet strong brightening when they reach the surface. The impacts also produce upward surges of material as well as shock waves, which can heat the material again.
“The inner solar corona is so hot we may never be able to probe it in situ with a spacecraft,” said lead author Patrick Antolin. “However, SolO orbits close enough to the Sun that it can detect small-scale phenomena occurring within the corona, such as the effect of the rain on the corona, allowing us a precious indirect probe of the coronal environment that is crucial to understanding its composition and thermodynamics. Just detecting coronal rain is a
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Iran Sent a Capsule Capable of Holding Animals into Orbit.
Despite popular opinion, the first animals in space were not dogs or chimps, they were fruit flies launched by the United States in February 1947. The Soviet Union launched Laika, the first dog into space in November 1957 and now, it seems Iran is getting in on the act. A 500kg capsule known as the “indigenous bio-capsule” with life support capability was recently launched atop the Iranian “Salman” rocket. It has been reported by some agencies that there were animals on board but no official statement has been released.
The Iranian Space Agency (ISA) are gearing up to getting humans into space before 2029 but is testing its launch capability with animal passengers. The capsule was launched on December 6 2023 and attained an orbital altitude of 130 kilometres. According to their Telecommunications Minister Isa Zarepour, it is aimed at sending Iranian astronauts to space by 2029.
The “Salaman” solid-fuelled rocket was designed by the aerospace division of the Ministry of Science, Research and Technology and built and launched by the Ministry of Defence and Armed Forces Logistics. It has already been used to launch a data collecting satellite and in 2013 successfully sent and returned monkeys into space.
Ham, a chimpanzee, became the first great ape in space during his January 31, 1961, suborbital flight aboard Mercury-Redstone 2 (Credit : NASA)
To date, only three counties have human spaceflight capability; USA, Russia and China. India are attempting to become the fourth as they work on their Gaganyaan program. Will Iran become the fifth!? Iran plans further tests with further launches bearing animal occupants before attempting to send humans up.
According to the Iranian Space Agency, its satellite program is purely for scientific research and other civilian applications. There is however, international suspicion because there are suspicions that the Salamn rockets could very easily be converted to long range missiles.
Source : Iran says it sent a capsule capable of carrying animals into orbit as it prepares for human missions
The post Iran Sent a Capsule Capable of Holding Animals into Orbit. appeared first on Universe Today.
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What Could a Next Generation Event Horizon Telescope Do?
Telescopes have come a long way in a little over four hundred years! It was 1608 that Dutch spectacle maker Hans Lippershey who was said to be working with a case of myopia and, in working with lenses discovered the magnifying powers if arranged in certain configurations. Now, centuries on and we have many different telescope designs and even telescopes in orbit but none are more incredible than the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT). Images las year revealed the supermassive black hole at the centre of our Galaxy and around M87 but now a team of astronomers have explored the potential of an even more powerful system the Next Generation EHT (ngEHT).
There is no doubt that our understanding of the processes within our Universe have come on leaps and bounds since the invention of the telescope. The resolution of these space piercing instruments is dictated by the telescope’s aperture. The technique known as interferometry hooks individual telescopes together and combines their signal so they act as one BIG telescope, boosting the resolution.
Telescopes like the EHT have been using interferometry to great advantage to study black holes. These enigmatic and mysterious stellar corpses defy our probing; we do not fully understand their origins and processes and indeed our laws of physics break down if you get too close to the point source in the centre, the singularity. Due to their interaction with space and time, understanding the full nature of black holes will – hopefully – unlock our understanding of the Universe.
Previously, observations have only revealed the movement of stars around galactic centre suggesting an object was lurking there weighing in at around 4 million times the mass of the Sun. Data from the EHT collected during 2022, finally revealed an image of the object at the centre – SgrA* – a super massive black hole and the matter in the immediate vicinity of the event horizon. Whilst this image did not reveal the black hole itself – another article required to explain that – it certainly revealed the telltale signs.
Sag A* compared to M87* and the orbit of Mercury. Credit: EHT collaboration
A recently published paper explores the possibilities of the ngEHT and how they might be able to unpick some of the physics around black holes. The ngEHT will increase the geographical footprint of EHT by 10 further instruments that span across the Earth. Making use of the significant improvement in resolution, the ngEHT will also improve image dynamics range, provide a multi-wavelength capability and facilitate long term monitoring.
The team conclude that future enhancements in measurement sensitivity and data analysis techniques in ngEHT will substantially advance our understanding of black holes and the immediate environments surrounding them with particular focus on the photon ring, mass and spin analysis, binary supermassive black holes and more besides.
Source : Fundamental Physics Opportunities with the Next-Generation Event Horizon Telescope
The post What Could a Next Generation Event Horizon Telescope Do? appeared first on Universe Today.
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Déjà vu All Over Again: Backpacking in Glacier National Park
By Michael Lanza
In the second week of September, the cool air in the shade of the forest nips at our cheeks as we leave our first night’s camp beside Glenns Lake in the backcountry of Glacier National Park, starting at a reasonably early hour for a day where we will walk nearly 16 miles and 6,000 feet of combined uphill and downhill. I’m hiking in a fleece hoodie, pants, and gloves and my friends Pam Solon and Jeff Wilhelm are similarly layered up. Once the sun reaches us within an hour, we’ll strip down to shorts and T-shirts.
Where the trail crosses a meadow, the expansive view west across a calm and insistently blue Cosley Lake reveals what looks like a long wall of overlapping stone shields jammed into the earth, each 2,000 or more feet tall and tilting at different angles. At the lake’s outlet—now in warm sunshine—we ford the Belly River, ankle- to calf-deep here with just a few tiny riffles and not very cold. More hiking through quiet forest brings us to the refrigerated, cliff-shaded alcove below Dawn Mist Falls, which spills thunderously over a sheer drop and crashes onto fallen boulders at its base, its force releasing a perpetual mist. Moss wallpapers the alcove’s short cliffs.
A backpacker hiking the Ptarmigan Tunnel Trail in Glacier National Park.
” data-image-caption=”Pam Solon backpacking the Ptarmigan Tunnel Trail in Glacier National Park.
” data-medium-file=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/Gla7-35-Pam-Solon-backpacking-the-Ptarmigan-Tunnel-Trail-in-Glacier-National-Park.jpg?fit=300%2C200&ssl=1″ data-large-file=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/Gla7-35-Pam-Solon-backpacking-the-Ptarmigan-Tunnel-Trail-in-Glacier-National-Park.jpg?fit=900%2C600&ssl=1″ src=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/Gla7-35-Pam-Solon-backpacking-the-Ptarmigan-Tunnel-Trail-in-Glacier-National-Park.jpg?resize=900%2C600&ssl=1″ alt=”A backpacker hiking the Ptarmigan Tunnel Trail in Glacier National Park.” class=”wp-image-61144″ srcset=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/Gla7-35-Pam-Solon-backpacking-the-Ptarmigan-Tunnel-Trail-in-Glacier-National-Park.jpg?resize=1024%2C683&ssl=1 1024w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/Gla7-35-Pam-Solon-backpacking-the-Ptarmigan-Tunnel-Trail-in-Glacier-National-Park.jpg?resize=300%2C200&ssl=1 300w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/Gla7-35-Pam-Solon-backpacking-the-Ptarmigan-Tunnel-Trail-in-Glacier-National-Park.jpg?resize=768%2C512&ssl=1 768w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/Gla7-35-Pam-Solon-backpacking-the-Ptarmigan-Tunnel-Trail-in-Glacier-National-Park.jpg?resize=150%2C100&ssl=1 150w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/Gla7-35-Pam-Solon-backpacking-the-Ptarmigan-Tunnel-Trail-in-Glacier-National-Park.jpg?w=1200&ssl=1 1200w” sizes=”(max-width: 900px) 100vw, 900px” data-recalc-dims=”1″ />Pam Solon backpacking the Ptarmigan Tunnel Trail in Glacier National Park.
After a thoroughly relaxing lunch break on the pebbly beach at Elizabeth Lake—where the perfect combination of solar warmth and soft breeze probably converts in direct value to about a thousand hours of counseling—we start the long climb to the Ptarmigan Tunnel. Reaching the open alpine terrain, I repeatedly stop to spin 180 degrees and take big bites of our view of the valley of Helen and Elizabeth lakes and the peaks on the other side, which shelter what remains of a couple of glaciers in the shade of north-facing cliffs just below the mountaintops.
I’ve backpacked this trail before; this isn’t new to me. But time slowly renders a bit fuzzier the memory of how constantly breathtaking it is—which is, in a funny way, a gift to us: We get to experience that awe anew each time.
Everyone laughed when the legendary Yogi Berra said, “It’s like déjà vu all over again,” but I think I knew what he meant.
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