NASA has just released five new videos called “Mysteries of the Sun”. The videos describe the science of the sun and its effects on the solar system and Earth. Scientists study the sun not only to better understand the orb that influences life, but also to study how it sends solar material out into space, filling up the bubble that defines the farthest reaches of the solar system. The sun can also impact Earth’s technology: solar storms can affect our communications satellites and cause surges in power lines. These movies cover the breadth of solar, heliospheric, and geospace science, a field known as heliophysics.
With beautiful graphics and well-explained narration, the series has won awards even before its public release, including the 2011 Platinum 3rd Annual Pixie Award in the category of Motion Graphics, receiving compliments from the judges such as “breath-taking animation” and “Some of the best in the competition.”
“NASA constantly creates science products to reach out to the public,” said Ruth Netting, Manager, Communications and Public Engagement for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington. “Informing the public is not the only reason — we also want to get people involved in science.”
The five movies, available online at http://missionscience.nasa.gov/sun and on DVD, cover five areas of heliophysics: Space Weather, Solar Variability, the Heliosphere, Earth’s magnetosphere, and Earth’s upper atmosphere.
The five videos are:
1. Space Weather
This video describes the direct and dramatic effects that eruptions on the sun can cause at Earth. Earth’s magnetic fields change shape and strength in response to an eruption on the sun, and these changes in turn can damage space born technology and disrupt communications traveling through space. They also cause aurora.
2. Solar Variability
Rotations of the material deep inside the sun cause constantly shifting magnetic field lines. This variability drives the solar cycle, during which the north and south magnetic poles reverse position approximately every 11 years.
3. The Heliosphere
The solar wind streams out from the sun until it collides with material from the rest of space. This entire bubble defined by the solar wind is called the heliosphere and scientists study the very boundaries to better understand our place in space.
4. Earth’s Magnetosphere
Earth is enveloped in a protective magnetic envelope called the magnetosphere. This can change shape in response to the sun’s effects, causing various types of space weather at Earth.
5. Earth’s Upper Atmosphere
Certain layers, high up in the atmosphere also respond to incoming energy from the sun. These layers contain charged particles and so naturally respond to an influx of magnetic energy. Understanding such variability is crucial since it can, in turn, degrade radio communication as well as satellite orbits.