The Living With a Star (LSW) program is a project by NASA with the goal of understanding why the Sun varies over time and how this effects the Earth, more specifically, how it effects human life on Earth rather than just general geoastrophysics. The scientific portion of the project began on the 11th of February, 2010, when the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) was launched into a geosynchronous orbit. This spacecraft was given the task of taking incredibly detailed readings from the Sun in regards to its magnetic field, corona and solar radiance. To perform this task three separate modules were integrated onto the satellite: The Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager (HMI); the Extreme Ultraviolet Variability Experiment (EVE); and the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA). Luckily it is the just the final one that we need to concern ourselves with today. The AIA unit is most similar to traditional photography being able to take pictures containing the whole Sun in eight different ultraviolet wavelengths and with very high resolutions (4096×4096).
Ultra high energy cosmic rays (UHECR) are cosmic rays which are measured to have over 1018 eV of kinetic energy. Many of these particles exist beyond the Greisen–Zatsepin–Kuzmin limit, a theoretical limit based on the interaction of the cosmic rays above a certain energy threshold and the photons of the cosmic microwave background radiation. In essence if the particles were of too high energy they would have interacted and slowed down, but this restriction only applies over a certain distance. UHECRs are believed to be produced locally and so are not restricted by the limit. There is also a possibility that heavier nuclei may circumvent the limit also, but what particles make up UHECRs are still unknown. Despite this the mass compositions have been measured by the Pierre Auger Observatory in Argentina which is believed to show particles of higher mass than helium with an upper limit of about iron.
I would hope that everybody reading would at least have some idea of what a solar flare is. When eruptions on the surface of the Sun are great enough it is possible for a coronal mass ejection to occur. This massive release of plasma (weighing up to 100,000,000,000 kg, and considering it’s gas that’s an incredible volume) and magnetic flux speed away from the Sun at about 1500 km s−1. They can be considered as one of the driving forces for space weather and are also important for understanding the Sun’s magnetic field in the corona. Now at the surface of the Sun, where the magnetic fields permeate, they end up bending back and reconnecting at constantly shifting points. This massive three dimensional structure is known as the magnetic flux ropes.
In recent years there has been increased interest amateur aerospace engineering with more and more individuals thinking it might be fun to give it a try. The CubeSat, originally proposed in 1999, is simply a cubic satellite with each edge only being 10 cm long. They normally contain simple commercial electronics and weigh no more that 1.5 kilo each. Normally they get thrown out of space station or dropped off as part of the payload on a rocket. They can carry a wide variety of scientific equipment (although only one or two at a time) and are perfect both for people wanting to learn about a bit of engineering and also researchers who want to perform simple mass studies in an astrophysical environment.
Chondrites are meteorites that are composed almost completely of rock, rather than metal. To be more specific a chondrite requires a large percentage of its volume to be made of chondrules, round grains made of nonmetallic minerals a few millimetres in diameter which are then completely surrounded and bound by a matrix of grains only a few micrometres in diameter. The abundance of elements within chondrites is very similar to the abundance ratios in the atmosphere of the sun. This leads to the conclusion that the asteroids were formed from the collecting of dust particles in the early solar system, before any of the planets had had a chance to form.
The multijunction solar cells are those with multiple junction connecting n doped and p doped materials. A normal solar cell only has one p-n boundary which electrons are promoted across by the solar radiation and their return is movement of charge which is the electricity. The advantage of multijunction (also known as tandem) solar cells is that they can be designed so each junction is optimised for a different wavelength of light. This means that overall the the solar cell is more efficient over a greater range of wavelengths. Triple-junction solar cells, such as indium-gallium-phosphourous, gallium-arsenic, germanium (InGaP/GaAs/Ge) solar cells are found a particular use in space exploration.
Over a year ago in a weekly roundup I vaguely mentioned the hypothetical particle called the axion. This particle is the end result of a series of theories to explain the possible asymmetry between real and antimatter during interactions of the weak force. The primary search for these particles is the CERN Axion Solar Telescope (CAST) which, as axions are believed to be created in stars, constantly monitors the sun. Using a massive superconducting magnet axions will hopefully be converted into X-rays which can then be much more easily detected. The exact specifications of the telescope are often altered in order to look in different mass and energy ranges. In the most recent data gathering session from 2013 to 2015 they actually repeated a previous search done nearly a decade earlier but now with the sensitivity improved three times over the already considerable amount. The range of interest for this study was between two and seven keV and the count rate was recorded for the various energy X-rays induced by the incoming particles.