26 October 2006

Twin twin views views of the sun sun

NASA is all set to let the Stereo project loose in a few hours.

Stereo is a pair of solar-observance satellites, which carry some interesting instruments.

One coded IMPACT measures solar particles & the transients presumably being raise by Coronal Mass Ejections; another coded PLASTIC measures plasma and high-temperature ions; another coded SWAVES (STEREO/WAVES) looks at CMEs & related events in great detail & with the idea of correlating views with the other satellite; SECCHI investigates coronal & heliospheric connections between sun & earth in a kind of 3D/stereo manner, so we can begin building a real understanding od how our loudest neighbour interacts with us.

CMEs are the most energetic eruptions on the Sun, are the primary cause of major geomagnetic storms, and are believed to be responsible for the largest solar energetic particle events.

Hopefully, words like “believed” here will succumb to investigation. It’s interesting that NASA don’t officially know which of the pair of satellites will forge on ahead yet, and which will troll along behind:

The two spacecraft will be launched together and will use a gravity assist from the moon to slingshot the spacecraft into a heliocentric orbit. The first to enter heliocentric orbit will be the Ahead (STEREO-A) spacecraft and then two weeks later the Behind (STEREO-B) spacecraft.

So... interesting observational times ahead, it seems.

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