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The Perplexing Solar Corona and the Space Environment It Creates: Lecture with NASA’s Nicholeen Viall November 7

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This post was authored by Stephanie Marcus, Science Reference Librarian in the Science, Technology, and Business Division.

NASA Observatories examining the atmosphere of the Sun are revealing extraordinary detail in the solar corona. Material from this mysteriously super-hot outer layer expands outwards to become the solar wind, accelerating beyond the speed of sound and bathing the planets in plasma and magnetic fields. Recent observations from the STEREO and Parker Solar Probe missions show the constantly roiling complex dynamic at work, even when the Sun is relatively quiet.

Image courtesy of NASA.

STEREO (Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory), which launched October 25, 2006, consists of two space-based observatories—one ahead of Earth in its orbit, the other trailing behind.  With this pair of viewpoints, scientists hope to understand the causes and mechanisms of coronal mass ejection (CME) initiation and the structure of the ambient solar wind.

The Parker Solar Probe (PSP) was launched August 12, 2018, and on September 1, 2019, made its third close approach of the Sun (called perihelion). The spacecraft will fly through the Sun’s atmosphere as close as 3.8 million miles to the surface, well within the orbit of Mercury and more than seven times closer than any spacecraft has come before. It will employ a combination of in situ measurements and imaging to increase our understanding of the corona and expand our knowledge of the origin and evolution of the solar wind. It will also make critical contributions to our ability to forecast changes in Earth’s space environment that affect life and technology on Earth.  For more information on this mission, view the webcast from Dr. Alex Young’s talk last year in the NASA lecture series: The Science of Space: Heliophysics & the Parker Solar Probe at

Astrophysicist Nicholeen Viall will report on what has been learned thus far from these and other solar missions, including the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), Wind, and the upcoming PUNCH mission.  She serves as the Deputy Project Scientist on STEREO and is a Co-Investigator on PUNCH (Polarimeter to Unify the Corona and Heliosphere).

What:  From the Sun to Solar Wind:  The Perplexing Solar Corona and the Space Environment it Creates

Where: Mary Pickford Theater, Third floor, James Madison Building

When:  Thursday, November 7, 2019, 11:30 am-12:30 pm.

For inquiries about this program, contact Stephanie Marcus in the Science, Technology & Business Division at 202-707-1192 or [email protected]. Individuals requiring accommodations for this event are requested to submit a request at least five business days in advance by contacting (202) 707-6362 or [email protected].

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