Future Space Mission, Research Paper Example

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Research Paper

Question

One of the most significant and potentially catastrophic astronomical processes that confronts the earth and  humanity is the cyclical transformation of the sun. Although modern astronomy and  heliospheric are capable of  monitoring the radical changes that periodically take place on the sun and within the sun, modern science, by and large, remains in the dark regarding any comprehension of the mechanics of solar transformation and also the potential impacts such dynamic may hold for near-term and long term, conditions in the solar system. The need to understand the dynamic between  the sun’s corona and photosphere, for example  represents a potentially urgent question due to the periodic phenomenon of both solar-flares and coronal mass ejections. The recent proliferation of of CME’s may or may not be directly linked to catastrophic weather-patterns on earth and the spike in temperatures which seems to have exacerbated and accelerated climate-change.

One very important question that confronts modern science is that which pertains to the release of energy by the sun — and by extension — all solar masses. The question, quite simply is: will tracing the flow of plasma and energy through the chromosphere and corona by the use of spectrometry and  three-dimensional imagery yield definitive models that can be used to predict future solar activity? A closely connected question is: will the use of sophisticated imaging and spectrometry of the sun’s internal and external energy processes provide a workable model by which the flow of energy from the sun to the earth can be both measured and predicted in regard to climate-change and other potentially catastrophic outcomes that are tied to processes of solar transformation?

Background.

A significant amount of theoretical background exists regarding the mechanics of the sun’s energy processing mechanisms, but most of it is related to distant observation adn is based in hypothetical models rather than on observational models. Because the flow of energy and plasma between the corona and photosphere represents a fundamental, if frequently changing, dynamic the need for accurate observational data is directly connected to hypothesized correlations between  the transformational processes of the sun and subsequent changes on earth.  One obvious example of this is the way in which  CMES “eject streams of electrically charged particles that affect the Earth’s magnetic field” (Hoyt 17). These changes in the earth’s magnetic field, in turn, impact the way in which cosmic rays interact with the earth and its inhabitants.

The study of the dynamic between the sun’s photosphere and corona presents an important key to understanding the energy shifts that are an integral part of solar cycles. the solar cycles are of utmost consequence to both the earth’s weather patterns and its disposition in regard to potentially harmful interaction with galactic cosmic rays. This is due to the fact that the sun’s heliosphere “a protective, sunblown bubble” (Drake 17) is intrinsically tied to the cyclical processes of the transference of energy from the sun’s photosphere and corona. The way in which the sun’s energy is transfered from its core and corona to the earth and the greater solar system is  a dynamic rather than static process. Understanding the mechanics between the various spheres of the sun is crucial in gaining any valuable insight into the sun’s mechanics and thereby attaining workable predictive models regarding climate-change and other catastrophic changes.

Theorists have suggested that solar activity is deeply connected to the impact of galactic cosmic rays on the earth. There is, in fact, an inverse relation betwen the frequency of galactic rays striking the earth and  “solar activity, which peaks once about every 11 years when the sun flips its magnetic pole […] When galactic cosmic rays approach the sun, they encounter the magnetic field of the heliosphere” (Shamir) which reduces their impact on the earth. The cyclical processes of the sun and its various levels of discharged plasma and energy is obviously of profound consequence to conditions on earth. Therefore, coming to understand the connection betwen the various spheres on the sun and how they interact is essential to being able to understand the possible future permutations of sunspot activity and CMES as well as the elasticity and variances of the heliosphere. The changes of frequency in solar activity and the reduction of and periodic disappearance of the heliosphere are tied to the primary exchange of plasma nd energy that takes place between the various layers or spheres of the sun. This means that any three-dimensional model of the sun that is based on  imaging and spectrometry will be of utmost use in understanding the underlying principles of solar cycles.

One of the most interesting aspects of the background material in regard to heliospheric science is the posited relationship between solar activity adn solar cycles to the present conditions of climate change that are being experienced on earth. The fact is that “There is now a wealth of evidence to suggest that sunspots, which vary over a cycle of 11 years, may have something to do with climatic change” (Milne 130). Due to this fact, alone, the impetus to fathom the mechanical dynamic of the sun is not only urgent from the pint of view of scientific and astronomical discovery, but it may also be of profound consequence to the question of human survival. In other words, if predictive models can be ascertained through visual analysis of the exchange of plasma and energy between  the sun’s photosphere and corona, important knowledge may be gained about future spikes in sunspot and other solar activity that will enable more accurate meteorological predictions for the long-term climate changes that face the earth. This predictive models may, in turn, lead to ideas and innovations of how to deflect or at the very least cope with the more radical evolutions in earth’s climate from a strictly pragmatic perspective.

Mission

Of course, the only way to determine whether or not a predictive model about solar cycles can be built on imaging and spectrometry is to undertake an actual mission to trace the energy-flow betwen the various spheres of the sun. This is precisely what is intended by the Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph  (IRIS) mission. The IRIS mission is designed to provide a scaffolding by which empirical observation of the earth’s sun will be used to extrapolate ideas about the nature of energy and plasma transference and also the nature of the solar wind. obviously, correlational information will be gained about the impact that energy transport betwen various spheres of the sun may have on the occurrences of sun-spots and CMES.

The IRIS instrument itself will be built around a spectrograph that is made of multichannel UV telescopes.  It’s simple construction will be an asset in streamlining the mission. In appearance, the  IRIS instrument will resemble a common satellite and will be placed in a sun-synchronous orbit. This will allow direct observation of the sun for eight months of the year. The information that is gathered by IRIS will be “Coordinated observations with Hinode, SDO, STEREO [and] ground-based observatories for photospheric magnetograms and coronal imaging” (IRIS). The capacity for continuous observation makes IRIS a dependable and almost indispensable instrument for measuring the material changes on the sun during periods of sun activity and solar cycles.

The basic objective of the IRIS mission is, obviously, to try to answer the question of why there is variance in the energy transference on the sun and betwen the sun and earth.  In order to accomplish this mission, the IRIS project will utilize “advances in instrumental and computational technology, its extensive experience, and its broad technological heritage to build a state-of-the-art instrument to provide unprecedented access to the plasma-physical processes” (IRIS) of the sun. This is tantamount to placing a permanent and constant observational “eye” on the sun’s most active and volatile regions. It is hoped that through study, observation, and three-dimensional modeling, that the previous theoretical ideas about the sun’s cyclical processes will be backed-up by empirical evidence or shown to be specious by the same empirical data. In either case, the nature of the sun’s transformations will certainly be more readily understood through the observational capacities of IRIS.

Of special note is the design of IRIS. Schematically, IRIS consists of very basic components including: optical equipment, protective coating, a thermal system, guide telescopes, unique software for controlling its disposition and flight paths, basic electronic systems for overseeing its individual components, and of course the main telescope and spectrograph which will be used to directly observe processes and regions of the sun.  The very basic construction of the IRIS instrument is in keeping with the narrowly-defined parameters of its mission. The mission of IRIS is to specifically observe and monitor the energy and plasma transference betwen the  sun’s spheres. The instrument is therefore specifically designed to fulfill that mission. The avoidance of more complicated components or software or even flight systems is a virtue in terms of the IRIS mission because, as previously indicated, there is a degree of urgency attached to its mission and also to the quick dissemination of  its observational findings.

The urgency of the mission is not simply due to the fact of climate change and the potential threat of future solar transformation, but due to the need for heliospheric science to attain a level of empirical certainty that has so far been elusive. It is one thing to make hypothetical conjectures regarding the connection between the sun’s energy transference and cycles but it is another thing altogether to directly observe the energy transference and cycles. As noted, IRIS will be a continuous observational process that will allow for a much-needed “window” into the solar cycles and processes that exert such profound and complex influences on earth and also to the rest of the solar system. A further consideration is that the observations that are made through the IRIS mission about the mechanics and nature of the earth’s sun will also offer insight into the cycles and activity of distant stars,. In this regard, the IRIS mission can be thought of not only as a local observational tool but as a tool for gaining interstellar information, if only in regard to expanding theoretical models about interstellar solar activity.

Hypothesis

It seems likely that what will be shown by the direct observation which is enabled by the IRIS instrument is that larger solar transformations and solar activity that impact earth are preceded by previously unobservable fluctuations and changes in the interaction between the sun’s spheres. Hypothetically, the IRIS instrument should be able to reveal to heliospheric scientists the “anatomy” of energy transference and plasma ejection in regard to the sun’s inner-mechanics. The hypothesis about just what the IRIS instrument will enable scientists to  extrapolate includes the creation of a three-dimensional model of the sun’s spheres and how they modulate during its cyclical transformation.

This information will almost certainly reveal that the sun shows or indicates a propensity for specific cycles such as the shifting of its magnetic poles or the occurrence of CMES in subtle ways that prefigure the more cataclysmic and visible vents. The IRUIS instrument should therefore operate as an aid in predicting the future cycles of the sun and also be able to rpovide empirical data related to the mechanisms by which the energy patterns of transference within the sun itself ultimately impact the earth and its inhabitants.

Works Cited

Anonymous. (2012)  Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph. Nasa.gov; accessed 12-10-12; http://iris.gsfc.nasa.gov/science.html

Drake, Nadla. “Sun’s Shock Wave Goes Missing: Observations Redraw Picture of the Local Stellar Environment.” Science News 16 June 2012: 17.

Hoyt, Douglas V., and Kenneth H. Schatten. The Role of the Sun in Climate Change. New York: Oxford UP, 1997.

Milne, Antony. Doomsday: The Science of Catastrophic Events. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2000.

Shamir, Lior. “Does Cosmic Weather Affect Infant Mortality Rate?” Journal of Environmental Health 73.1 (2010): 20+.

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