How to Safely Stare at the Sun: SOHO, SDO and GOES-R Instruments

The sun over the years. (Credit: SOHO/NASA/ESA)

SILVER SPRING, Md. (NOAA PR) — As an agency, NOAA’s science isn’t just limited to Earth and its atmosphere. NOAA’s reach goes from the surface of the Sun to the depths of the ocean floor as we work to keep the public informed of the changing environment around them. So, what sort of instruments help scientists detect what’s going on in the Sun in the first place?

(more…)

Comet NEOWISE and the International Space Station

Comet NEOWISE and the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

The International Space Station, with a crew of five onboard, is seen in this 10 second exposure above comet NEOWISE, Saturday, July 18, 2020 from Keys Gap, W.Va. The comet was discovered by NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or NEOWISE, on March 27.

Since then, the comet — called comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE and nicknamed comet NEOWISE — has been spotted by several NASA spacecraft, including Parker Solar Probe, NASA’s Solar and Terrestrial Relations Observatory, the ESA/NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, and astronauts aboard the International Space Station.

Onboard the International Space Station are Expedition 63 NASA astronauts Chris Cassidy, Douglas Hurley, Robert Behnken, and Roscosmos cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner.

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe Spies Newly-Discovered Comet NEOWISE

An unprocessed image from the WISPR instrument on board NASA’s Parker Solar Probe shows comet NEOWISE on July 5, 2020, shortly after its closest approach to the Sun. The Sun is out of frame to the left. The faint grid pattern near the center of the image is an artifact of the way the image is created. The small black structure near the lower left of the image is caused by a grain of dust resting on the imager’s lens. (Credits: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Naval Research Lab/Parker Solar Probe/Brendan Gallagher)

by Sarah Frazier
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

GREENBELT, Md. — NASA’s Parker Solar Probe was at the right place at the right time to capture a unique view of comet NEOWISE on July 5, 2020. Parker Solar Probe’s position in space gave the spacecraft an unmatched view of the comet’s twin tails when it was particularly active just after its closest approach to the Sun, called perihelion.

(more…)

4,000th Comet Discovered by ESA & NASA Solar Observatory

The 4,000th comet discovered by ESA (European Space Agency) and NASA’s SOHO observatory is seen here in an image from the spacecraft alongside SOHO’s 3,999th comet discovery. The two comets are relatively close at approximately 1 million miles apart, suggesting that they could have been connected together as recently as a few years ago. Credits: ESA/NASA/SOHO/Karl Battams

By Sarah Frazier
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

GREENBELT, Md. — On June 15, 2020, a citizen scientist spotted a never-before-seen comet in data from the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, or SOHO — the 4,000th comet discovery in the spacecraft’s 25-year history.  

(more…)

Failure of Aging Satellites Could Leave U.S. Partially Blind to Space Weather

Diagram of DSCOVR spacecraft. (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Tne failures of three aging satellites the United States relies upon to forecast space weather could leave the nation partially blind to electromagnetic storms that could severely disrupt electrical grids, communications systems, aviation and Global Positioning System (GPS) dependent navigation.

“The observations that we rely on to provide alerts and warnings are critical. Should we lose some of the key spacecraft that we talk about, I won’t say we’re blind but we’re darn close. It will impact our ability to support this nation’s need for space weather services. And I don’t want to see that happen,” said William Murtagh, director of NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center.

(more…)

Space Weather Act Introduced in Senate

An image taken from the International Space Station shows orange swaths of airglow hovering in Earth’s atmosphere. NASA’s new Atmospheric Waves Experiment will observe this airglow from a perch on the space station to help scientists understand, and ultimately improve forecasts of, space weather changes in the upper atmosphere. (Credits: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

On Sept. 2, 1859, a powerful solar storm of highly charged particles overwhelmed the Earth’s protective magnetic field, shorting out telegraph wires and igniting fires across the United States and Europe.

Aware of the havoc that a similar event could cause on a planet increasingly dependent on satellites and electronics, the U.S. government is looking to better predict, protect against and recover from future solar storms.

(more…)