An international gathering of space physicists -- including many representatives of the joint NASA-European Space Agency Ulysses solar polar probe -- will convene in Southern California June 25-30 for the world's most prestigious meeting to present new research results on the Sun and solar wind.
The conference, entitled Solar Wind 8, is the eighth international gathering of solar physicists and will be held at the Dana Point Resort in Dana Point, Calif. Co-sponsored by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Department of Energy's Los Alamos National Laboratory, the conference focuses on new satellite measurements and findings of the solar wind, a tenuous, million-mile-per-hour gale of particles streaming from the Sun.
The solar wind is the hot ionized gas that escapes from the Sun's atmosphere and expands into interplanetary space, enveloping all the planets of the solar system in an ethereal mist of tangled magnetic fields. Embedded structures are carried outward from the Sun by these winds and, occasionally, wallop a planet like a hard thrown punch. Spectacular curtains of light, called aurora, seen in the northern and southern hemispheres of Earth's atmosphere are the result of interactions between the solar wind and Earth's upper atmosphere.
Measurements from a dozen different spacecraft studying the Sun will be included among the nearly 300 scientific papers to be presented at the conference. Studies of the Sun are made possible by such missions as the Ulysses mission to the poles of the Sun, the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center's Solar, Anomalous and Magnetospheric Particle Explorer (SAMPEX) and the Japanese x-ray satellite mission known as Yohkoh. Some studies link satellite data with optical and radio observations of the Sun gathered from facilities on Earth.
Among the studies that will be presented:
-- Probing the Sun's corona -- its outermost atmospheric layer -- with a state-of-the-art Air Force radar made available for basic science since the end of the Cold War.
-- Using widely spaced antennae on Earth to measure the speed of the solar wind in locations where spacecraft have not yet penetrated.
-- A new view of how magnetically active regions on the Sun leave imprints in the solar wind and affect its dynamics.
-- How certain types of cosmic rays -- high-energy particles that reach the solar system from deep space -- can be used to estimate the solar wind's farthest reaches, the point where the wind piles up against the boundary of interstellar space. A related study looks at using Earth's magnetic field as a filter to capture these telling cosmic rays.
-- Wavelike fluctuations in the solar wind that could be linked to magnetic field lines wiggling about on the Sun's surface.
-- An overview of the solar wind in three dimensions, made possible by data returned by the Ulysses spacecraft on the first ever orbit around the Sun's poles.
In addition, a variety of new studies based on Ulysses data will be presented at Solar Wind 8 for the first time.
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