National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ)
Sunspots are planet-sized conglomerates of bundles of intense magnetic field lines on the surface of the Sun. They are known to cause explosions (solar flares) which can directly impact our technological infrastructure. What astrophysical mechanisms are responsible for the formation of sunspots and how do they drive explosive events are important questions in our quest to understand the Sun's activity and its magnetic effect on Earth. To tackle these questions, an international research team led by Shin Toriumi (Specially Appointed Assistant Professor at the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan) analyzed observations of sunspots as they formed taken by Hinode, the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) and the Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph (IRIS) satellites. The team modeled the observations using state-of-the-art numerical simulations performed on the Pleiades supercomputer at the NASA Ames Research Center. The study reveals how during the course of sunspot formation the territorial struggles between magnetic bundles emerging onto the Sun's surface drive the formation of so-called 'light bridges' and the generation of plasma jets and explosions. This study reveals, for the first time, the intimate relationship between the magnetism hidden in the solar interior, sunspot formation at the surface, and the dynamism of the Sun's atmosphere. The peer-reviewed results will appear in "The Astrophysical Journal."
The Chromospheric Lyman-Alpha Spectro-Polarimeter (CLASP) is a sounding rocket experiment to observe the Sun through Lyman-alpha line emissions. Because the Lyman-alpha line is absorbed by the Earth's atmosphere, the instrument needed to be raised above the atmosphere. CLASP was successfully launched to space from White Sands in the U.S.A. at 11:01 local time on September 3.
Solar physicists have captured the first direct observational signatures of resonant absorption, thought to play an important role in solving the "coronal heating problem" which has defied explanation for over 70 years.
On orbit since 22 September 2006 (Y+3308 )The Hinode (Solar-B) is a highly sophisticated observational satellite equipped with three advanced solar telescopes. It was launched on 22 September 2006 UT (23 September in Japan time). Its solar optical telescope (SOT) has an unprecedented 0.2 arcsec resolution for the observation of solar magnetic fields. It would resolve a feature with the size of 50cm, if it observed the Earth. The X-ray telescope (XRT) has a resolution of three times as high as Yohkoh, and the EUV imaging spectrometer (EIS) has sensitivity ten times as high as the ESA SOHO instrument. These X-ray and EUV telescopes would reveal the heating mechanism and dynamics of the active solar corona.
With this suite of telescopes, we can address the following key questions in solar physics : Why does a hot corona exist above the cool atmosphere? What drives explosive events such as solar flares? What creates the Sun's magnetic fields?The Hinode Science Center at NAOJ plays a lead role in instrument design and development, mission operation and data analysis with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), and promotes international collaboration with the US and European partners.