Heliophysics at NASA
Studying the sun and its interaction with Earth and the solar system.
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The Hinode Mission
Hinode's Mission: To Measure Solar Magnetic Fields
The next generation solar observatory launched in September 2006. Are you ready for a new look at the Sun?
For a high-resolution (150 dpi) PDF poster explaining Hinode (produced for the Chabot Science Center), click here for the front part, or on the image itself. For the other side of the poster, click here.
Hinode is using three instruments together to unravel basic information about the Sun. Hinode's overall goals are:
- to understand how energy generated by magnetic-field changes in the lower solar atmosphere (photosphere) is transmitted to the upper solar atmosphere (corona),
- to understand how that energy influences the dynamics and structure of that upper atmosphere, and
- to determine how the energy transfer and atmospheric dynamics affects the interplanetary-space environment.
Hinode is helping scientists find answers to some still unanswered questions about the Sun. (for specifics, see the Science Library)
How is energy from magnetic fields near the solar surface (photosphere) transmitted into the corona?
Scientists have studied the Sun for over 100 years, and although we have learned a lot about the major changes that take place on its surface and upper atmosphere, we still don't have enough information about how various forms of energy move from place to place. One of the most important forms of stored energy is in the magnetic fields which can be concentrated and tangled up. When this energy is released, it can heat local gases to 100s of thousands of degrees or more. Scientists want to know exactly how this stored energy is released, and in what forms it makes its way into the solar corona.
How does this energy cause changes in the structure and interactions that take place in the corona?
The release of magnetic energy is a complex process that involves changing one magnetic field shape into another, like taffy being pulled. Scientists want to know how magnetic fields change their shape in an explosive way to create solar flares, and how these changes alter the solar atmosphere and corona.
How do these changes affect the environment of interplanetary space?
Earth and the planets in our solar system orbit the Sun inside the Sun's outer atmosphere. During solar eclipses we see the brightest part of this atmosphere -- the corona. As it moves farther from the sun, this expanding atmosphere becomes more dilute and we call it the solar wind. The entire atmosphere extends beyond the orbit of Pluto and we call it the heliosphere. Scientists want to know how magnetic changes near the surface of the Sun affect the heliosphere. Because Earth interacts with the solar wind and heliosphere, and severe changes in this dilute atmosphere can cause satellite outages and electrical power blackouts, scientists want to know exactly how all of its various parts work together as a system.
To do the necessary research in answering these questions, an international team of dozens of scientists have developed the Hinode satellite and equipped it with three major instruments: a white-light telescope and vector magnetograph (Solar Optical Telescope -- SOT), an EUV imaging spectrograph (EIS), and a soft X-ray telescope (XRT). SOT and XRT are joint Japan-US instruments. EIS is a joint Japan-UK-US instrument. These instruments will study the detailed way in which magnetic fields and solar gases behave during solar flares.
› Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)
› National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ)
› Lockheed Martin Solar and Astrophysics Laboratory (LMSAL)
› X-Ray Telescope (XRT)
› Hinode - Solar Math
› Solar Dynamics Observatory
› Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory (STEREO)
› JAXA Publications