To start out off the summer time, the U.S. Postal Service issued a set of stamps highlighting views of the Solar from NASA’s Photo voltaic Dynamics Observatory. Showcasing a variety of photo voltaic exercise seen by the spacecraft, the stamps have fun a decade of Solar-watching for this workhorse mission. The Solar Science stamps had been issued by the U.S. Postal Service throughout a ceremony on the Greenbelt Essential Put up Workplace in Maryland on June 18.
“It’s such a pleasure to see these attractive stamps,” mentioned Dr. Nicky Fox, Division Director for NASA’s Heliophysics Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. “I have a look at every of those footage from the Photo voltaic Dynamics Observatory and am reminded of how they assist us study extra concerning the Solar and the best way its continually altering environment can have an effect on Earth and the planets. I’m happy that this imagery shall be shared by the Postal Service with the entire nation.”
The Photo voltaic Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, spacecraft was launched on Feb. 11, 2010, and commenced amassing science knowledge a number of months later. With two imaging devices – the Atmospheric Imaging Meeting and the Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager, which had been designed in live performance to supply complementary views of the Solar – SDO sees the Solar in additional than 10 distinct wavelengths of sunshine, exhibiting photo voltaic materials at completely different temperatures. SDO additionally measures the Solar’s magnetic subject and the movement of photo voltaic materials at its floor, and, utilizing a method known as helioseismology, permits scientists to probe deep into the Solar’s inside, the place the Solar’s complicated magnetic fields sprout from. And with greater than a decade of observation below its belt, SDO has offered scientists with a whole lot of thousands and thousands of photographs of our star.
“What SDO has accomplished is given us the ecology of the Solar,” mentioned Dr. Dean Pesnell, SDO venture scientist at NASA Goddard. “We see occasions huge, we see occasions small, and now we begin to see how every dimension impacts the others. It’s giving us the large image, one element at a time.”
NASA’s Photo voltaic Dynamics Observatory sees the Solar in additional than 10 distinct wavelengths of sunshine, exhibiting photo voltaic materials at completely different temperatures. Credit score: NASA’s Goddard Area Flight Heart
SDO’s lengthy knowledge report is especially helpful for finding out the Solar’s common exercise cycles, which swing between excessive and low exercise roughly each 11 years. Throughout excessive factors within the cycle, photo voltaic exercise like photo voltaic flares and coronal mass ejections – which might impression know-how on Earth and in house – are extra widespread. Although scientists’ understanding of this cycle has improved in a long time and centuries previous, SDO’s knowledge helps uncover much more element.
“If we wish to perceive what makes the Solar tick, we have to have this long-term report,” mentioned Dr. Mark Cheung, principal investigator for SDO’s Atmospheric Imaging Meeting on the Lockheed Martin Photo voltaic and Astrophysics Laboratory in Palo Alto, California. “We are able to observe all these magnetic fields and sunspots shifting round, and the way that feeds into the subsequent photo voltaic cycle – which is in its nascent part now.”
The brand new set of stamps options 10 photographs from SDO. Explore the story behind the stamps’ design from the U.S. Postal Service.
Learn on for extra concerning the science behind every stamp.
The darkish space capping the northern polar area of the Solar is a coronal gap, a magnetically open space on the Solar from which high-speed photo voltaic wind escapes into house. Such high-speed photo voltaic wind streams can spark magnificent auroral shows on Earth once they collide with our planet’s magnetic subject. These photographs had been captured Could 17-19, 2016, and the picture on the stamp is from Could 17. The photographs present the Solar in 211 Angstrom gentle, a wavelength of maximum ultraviolet gentle. This sort of gentle is invisible to our eyes and is absorbed by Earth’s environment, so it could possibly solely be seen by devices in house.
Seen on the decrease proper of the Solar is a prominence, with its vibrant arcs traced out by charged particles spiraling alongside the Solar’s magnetic subject traces. Coronal loops are sometimes discovered over sunspots and lively areas, that are areas of intense and complicated magnetic fields on the Solar. These photographs had been captured on June 18, 2015, in gentle at 304 Angstroms, an excessive ultraviolet wavelength.
Photo voltaic Flare
The brilliant flash on the Solar’s higher proper is a strong X-class photo voltaic flare. X-class flares are essentially the most highly effective kind of photo voltaic flare, and these bursts of sunshine and vitality can disturb the a part of Earth’s environment the place GPS and radio indicators journey. These photographs had been captured on August 9, 2011, in excessive ultraviolet wavelength 335 Angstroms.
This view highlights the various lively areas dotting the Solar’s floor. Lively areas are areas of intense and complicated magnetic fields on the Solar – linked to sunspots – which might be susceptible to erupting with photo voltaic flares or explosions of fabric known as coronal mass ejections. This picture was captured on October 8, 2014, in excessive ultraviolet wavelength 171 Angstroms.
These photographs present a burst of fabric from the Solar, known as a coronal mass ejection. These eruptions of magnetized photo voltaic materials can create house climate results on Earth once they collide with our planet’s magnetosphere, or magnetic atmosphere – together with aurora, satellite tv for pc disruptions, and, when excessive, even energy outages. These photographs are a mix of maximum ultraviolet wavelengths 171 and 304 Angstroms, captured on August 31, 2012.
These photographs present evolving coronal loops throughout the limb and disk of the Solar. Simply days after these photographs had been taken, the Solar unleashed a strong X-class photo voltaic flare. These photographs had been captured in excessive ultraviolet wavelength 171 Angstroms from July 8-10, 2012, and the picture on the stamp is from July 9.
This view in seen gentle – the kind of gentle we will see – exhibits a cluster of sunspots close to the middle of the Solar. Sunspots seem darkish as a result of they’re comparatively cool in comparison with surrounding materials, a consequence of the best way their extraordinarily dense magnetic subject prevents heated materials from rising to the photo voltaic floor. These photographs had been captured October 20-26, 2014, and the body on the stamp is from October. 23.
These photographs present a burst of plasma from the decrease proper of the Solar, which occurred along with a mid-level photo voltaic flare. These photographs are a mix of maximum ultraviolet wavelengths 171 and 304 Angstroms from October 2, 2014.
Photo voltaic Flare
These photographs present one other view of the August 9, 2011, X-class photo voltaic flare featured within the blue-toned 335 Angstrom photographs. These photographs had been captured in gentle at 131 Angstroms, an excessive ultraviolet wavelength.
These photographs present a pair of coronal holes, one close to the Solar’s equator and one on the Solar’s South Pole. These photographs had been captured in excessive ultraviolet wavelength 193 Angstroms from January 9-12, 2011, and the body on the stamp is from January 10.
SDO’s Atmospheric Imaging Meeting, which offers excessive ultraviolet views of the Solar, was designed and constructed by the Lockheed Martin Photo voltaic and Astrophysics Laboratory. The Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager was designed by Stanford College and constructed by the Lockheed Martin Photo voltaic and Astrophysics Laboratory. SDO was constructed and is operated and managed by Goddard for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, D.C.