Solar System

A Solar Flare That Will Blow Your Socks Off

Jun
20

By now many of you who follow the Sun have probably heard about the “solar flare that will blow your socks off,” which occurred in early morning of Sunday June 7. Here at the Chandra X-ray Center we watched it too -- with some pride as our colleagues downstairs with the Solar Dynamics Observatory were responsible for some of the movies that were being circulated around the Internet. On the one hand, an M2 is a medium-sized event and not usually a big deal. On the other hand, I also thought of a slogan written on my whiteboard a few years ago, “West limb worry.”

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Coming Soon: From Earth to the Solar System

Mar
04

Some of our regular blog readers might be familiar with a project called “From Earth to the Universe,” or FETTU for short. FETTU was originally cast as a project for the International Year of Astronomy in 2009, but also has grown beyond that single designation. In a nutshell, FETTU puts astronomical images in public spaces like parks, metro stations, and art centers – basically any place you might not expect to run into them.

ELON
FETTU in downtown Oslo, Norway (Credit: H. Dahle)

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Cold as Ice: X-rays from Comets

Nov
04

The last time I wrote a blog entry on the Sun was about two months ago. I noted that although the Sun had an outburst in August it was still fairly quiet. It remains fairly quite, although the sunspot numbers have been steadily creeping up for the last few months and there were four weak "C-class" flares last week. The observed rates are still only about two-thirds of the predicted values.

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The Sun -- Waking Up or Hitting the Snooze?

Sep
14

Well this is typical of how things work out. My last blog post I started back on July 23, Chandra's 11th birthday, and it was about how calm and, well boring, the Sun has been. It took me a couple days to finish it and then a few more for it to get posted. In between me writing the blog about the "quiet sun" and it being posted, there were a bunch of headlines like "Solar Tsunami", "Quiet No More" and then, "Solar Blast Just Misses." So what happened?
Sun SDO

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A Surprisingly Quiet Sun

Aug
06

In my last entry I described that particles coming out of the Sun -- especially what we call "soft" protons -- can damage the CCDs that we use on-board Chandra to detect X-rays. Because of this, we use a complicated network of on-board, space-based and ground-based monitors to ensure that the ACIS detector doesn't see too many of these protons. When the Sun was active, we often shut down the detector so that no damage would occur. Due to the solar cycle hitting a down phase, called "solar minimum," we haven't had to shutdown the detectors since 2006.

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Here Comes the Sun

Jul
12

Ok, I know this is not an original title for a blog about the sun and certainly not for the new solar cycle. Hey, I am an astronomer, not a writer. Like most science, my work on the Sun is partially something I fell into. My job on the Chandra science team is Monitoring and Trends Scientist. This means that it is my job to watch the spacecraft and make sure nothing is going to go wrong. To be honest, there are a whole bunch of engineers who have the same job for a specific part of the spacecraft and a chief engineer who monitors the whole spacecraft.

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