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The sun's magnetic field :: 22 March, 2007
NASA has released never-before-seen images that show the sun's magnetic field is much more turbulent and dynamic than previously known. The international spacecraft Hinode, formerly known as Solar B, took the images. Hinode, Japanese for "sunrise," was launched Sept. 23, 2006, to study the sun's magnetic field and how its explosive energy propagates through the different layers of the solar atmosphere.
Hinode is an international mission to study our nearest star, the sun. To accomplish this, the Hinode mission includes a suite of three science instruments -- the Solar Optical Telescope, X-ray Telescope and Extreme Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrometer.
Together, these instruments will study the generation, transport, and dissipation of magnetic energy from the photosphere to the corona and will record how energy stored in the sun's magnetic field is released, either gradually or violently, as the field rises into the sun’s outer atmosphere.
By studying the sun's magnetic field, scientists hope to shed new light on explosive solar activity that can interfere with satellite communications and electric power transmission grids on Earth and threaten astronauts on the way to or working on the surface of the moon. In particular they want to learn if they can identify the magnetic field configurations that lead to these explosive energy releases and use this information to predict when these events may occur.
Led by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), the Hinode mission is a collaboration between the space agencies of Japan, the United States, the United Kingdom and Europe. NASA helped in the development, funding and assembly of the spacecraft's three science instruments. Hinode is part of the Solar Terrestrial Probes (STP) Program within the Heliophysics Division of NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Solar Terrestrial Probes Program is managed at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., managed the development of instrument components provided by NASA, with additional support by academia and industry.
Release link: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/solar-b/index.html