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2004 Archives

December 29, 2004

November Solar Storms and Aurora

In 2003, the October solar storms obtained significant attention from the scientific community as well as from the press and public. These storms upset the Earth’s magnetic filed, and disrupted satellite communications worldwide. In 2004, the Sun again put on a fascinating show during the Halloween season with several large flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs). During late October and early November 2004, there were 22 M-class flares and 3 X-class flares. Of these 25 large flares, the SORCE XPS instrument observed the peaks during 16 flares and observed the irradiance decay during all of the flares. The largest flares observed by XPS have increases in the 0.1-7 nm range by factors of 17 and 20 on November 7 and November 10, respectively.

To read more, see the December 2004 newsletter

November 23, 2004

SORCE Science Meeting a Great Success

Oct 27-29 - Meredith, NH:
Approximately 75 scientists gathered for the 2004 SORCE Science Meeting held in a picturesque little town off beautiful Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire’s largest lake. The meeting – Decadal Variability in the Sun and Climate – focused on further understanding of the evidence for and mechanisms involved in decadal variability in the Sun and climate. Attendees enthusiastically shared information, ideas, and opinions over the 2-1/2 days.

With almost 60 abstracts submitted, the agenda consisted of both invited and contributed oral presentations, several keynote talks, 17 poster presentations, and a special science dinner presentation.The scientific organizing committee, Mark Baldwin from Northwest Research Associates, Greg Kopp from LASP, and Judith Lean from NRL, did an excellent job arranging an interesting and thought provoking program. The detailed agenda, abstracts, and many of the final presentations are available on the SORCE Meeting website.

To read more, see the November 2004 newsletter

August 30, 2004

SORCE Receives "NASA Group Achievement Award"

Gary Rottman, SORCE Principal Investigator, accepted the “NASA Group Achievement Award” on behalf of the SORCE Mission Team on Tuesday, August 24th. This award is presented to a group in recognition of an outstanding accomplishment which has been made through the coordination of many individual efforts and has contributed substantially to the accomplishment of the mission of NASA. The NASA Honor Awards Ceremony was held in Greenbelt, Maryland.

SORCE Program Manager, Tom Sparn, received NASA’s Public Service Award in recognition of his outstanding leadership and distinguished contributions to the SORCE Mission. This medal is awarded to a U.S. citizen who is not a federal government employee, for exceptional contributions to NASA’s mission. Tom has worked on the SORCE mission from the beginning in 1997, and has been extremely valuable in seeing it to fruition.

These awards coincidently come after eighteen months of successful operation on-orbit, which is a crucial milestone for SORCE because this is the criterion point NASA uses to determine mission success. SORCE has been on-orbit long enough to have obtained scientific success by collecting continuous TSI and SSI measurements. At LASP, plans to acknowledge and celebrate these special NASA accomplishments are in the works.

To read more, see the August 2004 newsletter.

August 12, 2004

Eighteen months of successful operation on-orbit!

Eighteen months of successful operation on-orbit is a crucial milestone for SORCE, because this is the criterion point NASA considers to determine the mission a success. In NASA’s eyes, SORCE has been on-orbit long enough to have obtained scientific success by collecting continuous TSI and SSI measurements. SORCE was launched on Jan. 25, 2003 from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The spacecraft, instruments, and ground systems are all functioning flawlessly.

Plans are in the works to acknowledge this special NASA accomplishment, and details will be forthcoming. Of course, everyone anticipates many more SORCE milestones in the years to come on this 5-year mission.

Special Experiments Run for SORCE’s July 6 Solstice –
The SORCE planning team has been extremely busy lately with all of the recent opportunities. Just a month after the Venus Transit, SORCE had another opportunity to show-off its capabilities with the July 6th solstice. Unlike Earth, the longest day of sunlight for SORCE’s orbit occurred on this day.

SIM measured the spectrum of atmospheric absorption on July 5th. Test-run experiments were performed prior to the solstice to ensure correct performance of the template. Data from the test were used to produce a wavelength scale, which was necessary for converting the real data to an atmospheric absorption spectrum.

Rather than conduct normal eclipse operations, i.e. point at stars, the spacecraft continued to track the Sun as it was occulted by the Earth. SOLSTICE performed two mini-scan experiments for these observations – one centered at Lyman-alpha, and the other near 225 nm to observe nitric oxide.

To read more, see the July 2004 newsletter.

July 16, 2004

Venus Transit

On June 8, for the first time since 1882, the planet Venus came between the Earth and the Sun. The circumstances for these special transit events occur only every 122 years, and then in pairs separated by about 8 years. We will have an-other in 2012, but then not again until 2117 and 2125. The size of the planet Venus is about one arc minute, or about the size of a typical sunspot on the solar disk. Therefore as the planet moves across the Sun, we expect a dip in solar irradiance of about 0.1%. The SORCE TIM instrument routinely records the passage of sunspots with comparable dips in TSI. (The very largest sunspot groups late in October of 2003 produced a drop in TSI of more than 0.3%.) Observing the transit of Venus is well within the precision and accuracy capability of the SORCE TIM, and we anticipated that this astronomical event was an opportunity to test the instrument, and may provide some unique scientific data as well.

SORCE schedulers and scientists took advantage of the opportunity to capture this rare alignment by planning special experiments.

To read more, see the special June 8, 2004 newsletter.

January 29, 2004

SORCE Celebrates 1 Year in Orbit!

January 25, 2004 marked the first year of a very successful SORCE mission. The spacecraft and instruments are performing exceptionally well, and the science data collected are exceeding all expectations. All SORCE science data are available to the entire science community through the Goddard DAAC, which can be accessed through the SORCE website: data_access.html.

Scientist working in many different disciplines and on a variety of missions/projects are actively using SORCE’s data to compare and learn. It is a very exciting time for research, and the SORCE data and SORCE science meetings will have a major impact. The SORCE data products continue to be refined and improved, and most have reached a quality level suitable for research. The SORCE team is still refining the data corrections that will address on orbit changes in instrument responsivity, so these present data products are not yet appropriate for detection of long-term solar variability.

In just one short year there have been several outstanding SORCE discoveries. The flare events in late October provided SORCE with a perfect opportunity to demonstrate its capabilities –the TIM instrument produced the first definitive measurements of a flare seen in the total solar irradiance, and there is the discovery of the Cr XX emission in the SOLSTICE flare spectrum. Tom Woods, a SORCE project scientists, has submitted a paper addressing the flare results to the Geophysical Research Letters. The Astrophysical Journal Letters is reviewing a paper submitted by Juan Fontenla regarding how the infrared emissions measured by SIM differ from model predictions, and this new observational constraint will lead to refinement and improvement of the models.

To acknowledge SORCE’s first year, everyone was invited to celebrated with fun, games, food, and birthday cake. To read more about the celebration check out the January 2004 SORCE Newsletter.