Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager (HMI) to Unravel Mysteries of the Sun, Will Study the Origin of Solar Variability

Two state-of-the art solar instruments built at the Solar and Astrophysics Laboratory of the Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) Advanced Technology Center (ATC) in Palo Alto, were launched on February 11th at 10:23 a.m. EST aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket.

The Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA), a suite of four telescopes, will provide an unprecedented view of the solar corona, taking images that span at least 1.3 solar diameters in multiple wavelengths nearly simultaneously, at a resolution of about one arc-second and at a cadence of ten seconds or better. The Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager (HMI), designed in collaboration with Professor Philip Scherrer, HMI Principal Investigator, and other scientists at Stanford University, will study the origin of solar variability and attempt to characterize and understand the Sun’s interior and magnetic activity.

“The successful launch this morning is a very significant step for the solar physics community. With AIA now in space we’re getting very close to the time when this instrument will be providing the kind of data we need to unravel mysteries of the Sun that have been just beyond our grasp,” said physicist – and Principal Investigator of AIA – Dr. Alan Title of the ATC. “Looking at the full Sun in a broad range of temperature bands every 10 seconds will give us unprecedented insight into the processes that determine the evolution of the corona.”

The AIA will produce data required for quantitative studies of the evolving coronal magnetic field, and the plasma it holds, both in quiescent phases and during flares and eruptions. The primary goal of the AIA Science Investigation is to use these data, together with data from other SDO instruments and from other observatories, to significantly improve our understanding of the physics behind the activity displayed by the Sun’s atmosphere, which drives space weather in the heliosphere and in planetary environments. Ultimately, it is hoped that the greater understanding gained of the observed processes will guide development of advanced forecasting tools needed by the user community of the Living With a Star (LWS) program.

“HMI combined with our partner instruments on SDO – the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly and the Extreme Ultraviolet Variability Experiment – will provide us with the data needed to first learn if predictions of solar activity are possible,” said Professor Scherrer. “Then, if we and our colleagues in the solar physics community are clever enough, we’ll actually develop forecast methods. This is an exciting time for studying the Sun and its impact on the Earth.”

The primary goal of the HMI investigation on SDO is to study the origin of solar variability and to characterize and understand the Sun’s interior and magnetic activity. Because of the turbulence in the convection zone near the surface, the Sun is figuratively ringing like a bell. By studying these oscillations of the visible surface of the Sun, considerable insight can be gained into the processes inside. In effect the solar turbulence is analogous to earthquakes. In a manner similar to how seismologists can learn about the interior of the Earth by studying the waves generated in an earthquake, HMI’s helioseismologists learn about the structure, temperature and flows in the solar interior.

“HMI will provide us with sonograms of the Sun that will show us sunspots and magnetic fields before they appear on the visible surface,” added Dr. Alan Title – co-investigator on HMI. “We’ll even be able to see through the Sun and be aware of the birth of spots on the side facing away from us, allowing us to be ready for them as they rotate into our view. Moreover, HMI’s high spatial resolution and full-Sun coverage will give us much more time to study magnetic field evolution in detail.”

HMI will produce data necessary to determine the interior sources and mechanisms of solar variability and how the physical processes inside the Sun are related to surface magnetic field and activity. Because HMI can measure the strength and direction of the magnetic field on the surface, more precise estimates of the coronal magnetic field are possible. In addition, HMI observations will clarify the relationships between internal solar dynamics and magnetic activity, providing a better understanding of solar variability and its effects. The knowledge gained will enable a major advance in the development of a reliable predictive capability for solar flares and coronal mass ejections.

Solar scientists will use the third instrument on SDO – the Extreme Ultraviolet Variability Experiment (EVE) – to measure the Sun’s brightness in the most variable and unpredictable part of the solar spectrum. The extreme ultraviolet, or EUV, ranges in wavelength from 0.1 to 105 nm. EVE will collect spectra over a broad EUV to UV range from the entire Sun. EVE and AIA will be able together to establish how local events like flares affect the entire solar spectrum.

The goal of SDO is to understand – striving towards a predictive capability – the solar variations that influence life on Earth and humanity’s technological systems. The mission seeks to determine how the Sun’s magnetic field is generated and structured, and how this stored magnetic energy is converted and released into the heliosphere and geospace in the form of solar wind, energetic particles, and variations in the solar irradiance.

Flying in a geosynchronous orbit, SDO will observe the Sun 24 hours a day without interruption, and downlink its data to the Science Operations Center at Stanford University. Quick look data will be available in near real time for assessment of current solar weather. Processed data will be available to both scientists and the general public as soon as its quality can be evaluated – usually on the order of a day. Public tools for searching the SDO database and for creating a variety of movies will be available.

SDO is the most advanced spacecraft ever designed to study the Sun and its dynamic behavior. SDO will provide better quality, more comprehensive science data faster than any NASA spacecraft currently studying the Sun and its processes. SDO will unlock the secrets of how our nearest star sustains life on Earth, affects the planets of our solar system and beyond.

SDO is the first mission and crown jewel in a fleet of NASA missions to study our Sun. The mission is the cornerstone of a NASA science program called Living With a Star (LWS). The goal of the LWS Program is to develop the scientific understanding necessary to address those aspects of the Sun and solar system that directly affect life and society.

SDO will study how solar activity is created and how space weather results from that activity. Measurements of the Sun’s interior, magnetic field, the hot plasma of the solar corona, and the irradiance will help meet the objectives of the SDO mission. SDO is managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington DC.

The Solar and Astrophysics Laboratory at the ATC has a 47-year-long heritage of spaceborne solar instruments including the Soft X-ray Telescope on the Japanese Yohkoh satellite, the Michelson Doppler Imager on the ESA/NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, the solar telescope on NASA’s Transition Region and Coronal Explorer, the Solar X-ray Imager on the GOES-N and O environmental satellites, the Focal Plane Package on Hinode and an Extreme Ultraviolet Imager on each of the two spacecraft in NASA’s Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory. The laboratory also conducts basic research into understanding and predicting space weather and the behavior of the Sun including its impacts on Earth and climate.

The ATC is the research and development organization of Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company (LMSSC). LMSSC, a major operating unit of Lockheed Martin Corporation, designs and develops, tests, manufactures and operates a full spectrum of advanced-technology systems for national security and military, civil government and commercial customers. Chief products include human space flight systems; a full range of remote sensing, navigation, meteorological and communications satellites and instruments; space observatories and interplanetary spacecraft; laser radar; ballistic missiles; missile defense systems; and nanotechnology research and development.

Headquartered in Bethesda, Md., Lockheed Martin is a global security company that employs about 140,000 people worldwide and is principally engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture, integration and sustainment of advanced technology systems, products and services. The Corporation reported 2009 sales of $45.2 billion.

EU HEALTHGRAIN Project: Bread Made with White Rye Flour Can Produce Healthier Insulin and Blood Sugar Levels Say Lund University Researchers

Can bread help prevent heart disease? The answer to this question depends on the part of the grain that is being used to bake the bread, says an EU-funded team studying the use of wholegrain foods in the prevention of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.

Most people are likely to know that wholegrain bread is a better alternative to white bread. Some people may also know that a wholegrain diet can contribute to better overall health and well-being because wholegrain products contain greater sources of fibre, vitamins and minerals. Few would know, however, that an increasing number of studies are showing that an intake of both whole grain and cereal dietary fibre can protect against chronic diseases that often stem from our sedentary lifestyles.

The aim of the HEALTHGRAIN (‘Exploiting bioactivity of European cereal grains for improved nutrition and health benefits’) project is to understand consumer expectations and attitudes, and conduct advanced research on the health-protective compounds of whole grains. The project’s ultimate goal is to inspire healthy, tasty and convenient foods that contain more of these protective components and have the ability to prevent (or even counteract) different types of disease.

Over 40 organisations from 15 European countries are involved in HEALTHGRAIN, which received EUR 10.81 million in funding under the ‘Food quality and safety’ Thematic area of the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6). Coordinated by the Technical Research Centre of Finland, the project has generated some interesting results since it began in 2005.

The latest findings indicate that the benefits of whole grain do not stop at the outer shell of the grain itself (the fibre-rich bran). Research conducted for HEALTHGRAIN by scientists from Lund University in Sweden shows that, on the contrary, bread made with white rye flour (from the inner part of the rye kernel) can produce healthier insulin and blood sugar levels compared to wheat bread with rye bran (a high proportion of bread sold in most countries is baked with wheat flour and bran from various grains).

‘Precisely what it is that makes rye lead to a stable blood sugar curve is as yet unknown, but we are getting closer and closer to an answer,’ said Dr Liza Rosén from Lund University. ‘There are several different types of rye, and not all types have the same effect.’

The team also discovered that the participants in their meal studies that had boiled rye kernels in the morning were fuller and ate significantly less for lunch than the participants that ate white bread. Bread and hot cereal made with white rye and wholegrain rye were also found to be more filling than white wheat bread.

The scientists are currently conducting a third study into the consumption qualities of different kinds of rye.

The five-year HEALTHGRAIN project concludes in 2010. Results from the project, as well as basic information on wholegrain products, are available from the website.

For more information, please visit:

HEALTHGRAIN: http://www.healthgrain.org/pub/index.php

Lund University: http://www.lu.se/lund-university

ITM Power to Deliver Transportable High Pressure Hydrogen Refueling Station for Hydrogen Internal Combustion Engine (HICE) Demonstration Vehicles

ITM Power (AIM: ITM), the energy storage and clean fuel company, has announced that, as part of the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Demonstrator Programme managed by the Technology Strategy Board, ITM has been awarded grant funding of $527,000 (£337,000) over 13 months towards the development and delivery of a Transportable High Pressure Hydrogen Refueling Station capable of delivering up to 15kg H2 per day at 350bar to fuel hydrogen internal combustion engine (HICE) demonstration vehicles.

The application is supported by Gateway to London and Revolve Technologies Ltd. The refueling station will be containerized allowing simple transportation to multiple demonstration sites and enabling partners to utilize the refueler without the need for planning permission or large capital investments in on-site infrastructure. The use of “green” electricity from a local renewable source, or a green grid contract, enables the production of green hydrogen, a zero carbon transport fuel.

The refueling station will make a greater number of demonstration projects possible and provide confidence to potential end users that refueling with green hydrogen is a viable commercial route to decarbonizing transport.

Dr Graham Cooley, CEO ITM Power commented, the  “announcement by the TSB is a clear indication of a renewed commitment by the government to hydrogen generation and utilization in the UK, and that green hydrogen will play a significant part in its carbon reduction strategy”. Graham added “ITM has positioned itself at the heart of the Low Carbon Economy, developing equipment to maximize use of intermittent renewable energy, through energy storage and provision of a clean fuel. We are now well placed to commercialize our products in the key sectors of low carbon transport and the built environment.”

Paul Turner Technical Director of Revolve Technologies, stated that “the TSB grant awarded to ITM Power for the build and demonstration of a transportable refueler for on-site production, storage and dispensing of green hydrogen, is a major advance in promoting the viability and use of a clean fuel with carbon free emissions from Revolve Technologies’ H2ICE Ford Transit vans, for commercial fleet operators. Paul Turner emphasized that “this will enable the commercial logistics sector to appreciate the very real benefits of short refueling times and extended range for carbon-free deliveries on urban duty cycles, without the carbon footprint of the fuel delivery supply chain”

John Williams CEO Gateway to London, described the award of the grant “as a major step forward for the cleantech revolution in London Thames Gateway, and an excellent opportunity to demonstrate the benefits of green hydrogen technology.” He added, “With major initiatives like this, the proposed Green Enterprise District, the Thames Gateway Institute for Sustainability, and the focus on sustainability around the London 2012 Olympic games, east London is taking the lead as a regional, national and global beacon for clean technologies, and sustainability in infrastructure, transport, community and industry. ITM Power’s energy storage and clean fuel technology provides a future opportunity for the region to fully utilize intermittent renewable energy to provide a clean carbon-free fuel, that can be produced exactly where it is needed.”

ITM Power has developed a range of materials and technology to reduce the cost of hydrogen production. The company is developing equipment to convert renewable energy to a clean fuel; storing the energy as green hydrogen for decarbonizing transport, industrial and residential applications.  

Revolve Technologies serves a diverse portfolio of multi-tier automotive and non-automotive clients across a broad spectrum of industries including car and commercial vehicle, transportation, infrastructure, agriculture, defense and energy. Revolve has OEM recognition, undertaking approved performance upgrades in the UK. Established as Roush Technologies Limited in the UK in 1995 and based in Brentwood, Essex, the business was acquired from its US parent, Roush Industries, by an investor group in 2007. For further information on Revolve Industries, please visit the Revolve Industries website

Gateway to London is the Inward Investment agency for London Thames Gateway and works to maximize commercial opportunities in east London, bringing together businesses, landowners, developers, agencies and statutory bodies. The Gateway to London team provide a free, comprehensive and confidential service to anyone considering investing in London Thames Gateway, from identification of development opportunities, an extensive site and property service, funding and grants assistance and agent and Local Authority liaison, to a supporting information service. For further information on Gateway to London, please visit the Gateway to London website

For further information For further information on ITM Power, please visit the ITM Power website http://www.itm-power.com/ or contact:

ITM Power plc. Graham Cooley, CEO, 0114 244 5111
Panmure Gordon & Co. Andrew Godber / Ashton Clanfield 020 7459 3600
Tavistock Communications. Simon Hudson / Andrew Dunn 020 7920 3150

Comet Siding Spring: First Images From NASA WISE Mission Released

Comet Siding Spring
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Comet Siding Spring appears to streak across the sky like a superhero in this new infrared image from NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE. The comet, also known as C/2007 Q3, was discovered in 2007 by observers in Australia.

The snowball-like mass of ice and dust spent billions of years orbiting in the deep freeze of the Oort Cloud, a spherical cloud of comets surrounding our solar system. At some point, it got knocked out of this orbit and onto a course that brings it closer to the sun. On October 7, 2009, it passed as close as 1.2 astronomical units from Earth and 2.25 astronomical units from the sun (an astronomical unit is the distance between the sun and Earth). Now, the comet is leaving the warmer, more hospitable neighborhood of the solar system and heading back out to chillier parts.

In this view, longer wavelengths of infrared light are red and shorter wavelengths are blue. The comet appears red because it is more than ten times colder than the surrounding stars, for example, the bright blue star in the foreground. Colder objects give off more of their light at longer wavelengths. An ice cube, for example, pours out a larger fraction of its light at longer infrared wavelengths than a cup of hot tea emits.

A comet like this one can be thought of as a time capsule leftover from the formation of our solar system 4.5 billion years ago. After spending most of its long, lonely life in the darkest, coldest parts of our solar system, it warms up as it approaches the sun. The sunlight causes it to shed ices and dust in a long tail that trails behind it.
Comet Siding Spring, having experienced this “spring” awakening, is glowing in infrared light that WISE can see. Once it moves too far from the sun’s warmth and light, it will disappear from view for the foreseeable future.

Astronomers will use these measurements to learn about the comet’s size, composition, reflectivity, and the size and makeup of the dust particles in its coma (the hazy cloud surrounding its nucleus) and its tail. WISE data on this and other comets will help unlock clues that lay within these icy time capsules, teaching us about our solar system’s evolution.

In this image, 3.4-micron light is colored blue; 4.6-micron light is green; 12-micron light is orange; and 22-micron light is red. It was taken on Jan. 10, 2010.

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA

Cornell Receives $750,000 to Develop Direct Assembly of New Hybrid Nanomaterials for Energy Conversion

Direct assembly of nanomaterials for highly efficient energy conversion will be the goal of a five-year, $750,000 project led by Cornell researcher David Erickson.
Erickson, assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, has received a Department of Energy Early Career Research Program grant for a project to use high-intensity optical forces on the nanoscale to directly assemble new types of hybrid nanomaterials with useful energetic properties.
Erickson explained that often when new nanomaterials are made, such conditions as the concentration or temperature of chemicals can be modified, but in the end, chemical reactions occur that can’t be stopped.
“With this technique we hope to be able to get around that and directly take a series of basic elements like carbon nanotubes and gold nanoparticles, and assemble them into any arbitrary material structure we like,” Erickson said.
He hopes their first application of such new materials will lead to better ways to convert energy.
“Ultimately we envision that the basic research conducted in this program could lead to the development of a sort of light-based nano-assembly line for creating new materials,” Erickson said.
Erickson said the grant will support a graduate student or postdoctoral associate for five years, as well as provide a partial summer salary.
The DOE funded about $85 million worth of early career research projects with American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds. To date, Cornell has received 135 ARRA awards, totaling more than $105 million.