Colloquium: Doug Biesecker
Oct 16 @ 3:15 pm – 4:15 pm
Colloquium: Doug Biesecker @ BX102

Why Space Weather Matters and How Forecasting Will Improve in the DSCOVR Era

Doug Biesecker, NOAA/NWS/Space Weather Prediction Center

Space Weather is a growing enterprise, with growing recognition of its importance inside and outside government.  The largest concern is with the electric power grid, but impacts to Global Positioning Systems (GPS) are also significant.  Other areas of impact include satellites and human space flight, and high frequency communication for aviation, mariners, and emergency responders, among many.  The NOAA National Weather Service’s Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) is the nation’s official source of space weather watches, warnings and alerts.  SWPC does this with a 24×7 staffed operation that monitors the Sun, solar wind, and geospace environment taking advantage of a broad suite of observations and models to provide the best forecasts possible.  In conjunction with the growing recognition of space weather, NOAA launched its first mission, the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR), out of the Earth’s orbit to an orbit about the L1 Lagrange point.  This is also NOAA’s first satellite mission where space weather is the primary mission and DSCOVR marks the first of what is expected to be a long series of space weather monitoring satellites.  NOAA is also bringing numerical space weather models into the mix of models running on the nation’s supercomputers.  Numerical space weather models have demonstrated the ability to improve the onset time of space weather storms and will, for the first time, allow regional geomagnetic forecasting.  Instead of describing conditions on Earth with a single number, customers will have forecasts tailored to their location.


Colloquium: Lauren Woolsey
Feb 12 @ 3:15 pm – 4:15 pm
Colloquium:  Lauren Woolsey @ BX102

Magnetic Influences on Coronal Heating and the Solar Wind

Lauren Woolsey, Harvard University



The physical mechanism(s) that generate and accelerate the solar wind have not been conclusively determined after decades of study, though not for lack of possibilities. The long list of proposed processes can be grouped into two main paradigms: 1) models that require the rearranging of magnetic topology through magnetic reconnection in order to release energy and accelerate the wind and 2) models that require the launching of magnetoacoustic and Alfvén waves to propagate along the magnetic field and generate turbulence to heat the corona and accelerate the emanating wind. After a short overview of these paradigms, I will present my ongoing dissertation work that seeks to investigate the latter category of theoretical models and the role that different magnetic field profiles play in the resulting solar wind properties with Alfvén-wave-driven turbulent heating. I will describe the computer modeling in 1D and 3D that I have done of bundles of magnetic field (flux tubes) that are open to the heliosphere, and what our results can tell us about the influences of magnetic field on the solar wind in these flux tubes, including the latest time-dependent modeling that produces bursty, nanoflare-like heating. Additionally, I will present the latest results of our study of chromospheric network jets and the magnetic thresholds we are finding in magnetogram data.

Colloquium PhD Defense: Kyle Uckert
Aug 26 @ 3:15 pm – 4:15 pm
Colloquium PhD Defense: Kyle Uckert @ BX102

Characterization of Biosignatures within Geologic Samples Analyzed using a Suite of in situ Techniques

Kyle Uckert, NMSU   

I investigated the biosignature detection capabilities of several in situ techniques to evaluate their potential to
detect the presence of extant or extinct life on other planetary surfaces. These instruments included: a laser desorption
time-of- flight mass spectrometer (LD-TOF-MS), an acousto-optic tunable filter (AOTF) infrared (IR) point spectrometer, a
laser-induced breakdown spectrometer (LIBS), X-ray diffraction (XRD)/X-ray fluorescence (XRF), and scanning electron
microscopy (SEM)/energy dispersive X-Ray spectroscopy (EDS). I measured the IR reflectance spectra of several speleothems
in caves in situ to detect the presence of biomineralization. Microorganisms (such as those that may exist on other solar
system bodies) mediate redox reactions to obtain energy for growth and reproduction, producing minerals such as
carbonates, metal oxides, and sulfates as waste products. Microbes occasionally become entombed in their mineral
excrement, essentially acting as a nucleation site for further crystal growth. This process produces minerals with a
crystal lattice distinct from geologic precipitation, detectable with IR reflectance spectroscopy. Using a suite of
samples collected from three subterranean environments, along with statistical analyses including principal component
analysis, I measured subsurface biosignatures associated with these biomineralization effects, including the presence of
trace elements, morphological characteristics, organic molecules, and amorphous crystal structures.

I also explored the optimization of a two-step LD-TOF-MS (L2MS) for the detection of organic molecules and other
biosignatures. I focused my efforts on characterizing the L2MS desorption IR laser wavelength dependence on organic
detection sensitivity in an effort to optimize the detection of high mass (≤100 Da) organic peaks. I analyzed samples
with an IR reflectance spectrometer and an L2MS with a tunable desorption IR laser whose wavelength range (2.7 – 3.45
microns) overlaps that of our IR spectrometer (1.6 – 3.6 microns), and discovered a IR resonance enhancement effect. A
correlation between the maximum IR absorption of organic functional group and mineral vibrational transitions – inferred
from the IR spectrum – and the optimal IR laser configuration for organic detection using L2MS indicates that IR
spectroscopy may be used to inform the optimal L2MS IR laser wavelength for organic detection. This work suggests that a
suite of instruments, particularly LD-TOF-MS and AOTF IR spectroscopy, has strong biosignature detection potential on a
future robotic platform for investigations of other planetary surfaces or subsurfaces.

Colloquium: Bart De Pontieu
Mar 3 @ 3:15 pm – 4:15 pm
Colloquium: Bart De Pontieu @ BX 102

Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph Views of How the Solar Atmosphere is Energized

Dr. Bart De Pontieu, Lockheed Martin

At the interface between the Sun’s surface and million-degree outer atmosphere or corona lies the chromosphere. At 10,000K it is much cooler than the corona, but also many orders of magnitude denser. The chromosphere processes all magneto-convective energy that drives the heating of the million-degree outer atmosphere or corona, and requires a heating rate that is at least as large as that required for the corona. Yet many questions remain about what drives the chromospheric dynamics and energetics and how these are connected to the transition region and corona.

The Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph (IRIS) is a NASA small explorer satellite that was launched in 2013 to study these questions. I will review recent results from IRIS in which observations and models are compared to study the onset of fast magnetic reconnection in the solar atmosphere, the generation of violent jets and how they feed plasma into the hot corona, and the role of nanoflares in heating the corona.

Colloquium: Hazel Bain
Mar 10 @ 3:15 pm – 4:15 pm
Colloquium: Hazel Bain @ BX 102

Antarctic high altitude balloon observations of solar flares: Life and work on the ice

Dr. Hazel Bain, University of California, Berkeley


The Gamma-Ray Imager/Polarimeter for solar flares (GRIPS) instrument is a balloon-borne telescope designed to study particle acceleration in solar flares. The process through which stored magnetic energy is released and particles are accelerated to high energies in solar flares is not well understood. Hard x-rays and gamma-rays are direct signatures of these accelerated particles and can be used as a proxy to investigate particle acceleration mechanisms in these explosive events.

In the austral summer of 2016, GRIPS began its inaugural flight from NASA’s Long Duration Balloon (LDB) facility just outside McMurdo, Antarctica. During the 12 day flight, the balloon was carried around the Antarctic continent by the seasonal stratospheric polar vortex. At the end of the 2016 season, the data vaults were recovered however due to the lateness of the season a full recovery was scheduled for the following year.

In this talk I will discuss the GRIPS instrument design and science goals, the process of testing and integration leading up to a balloon launch, the inaugural flight and subsequent instrument recovery this year from the GRIPS landing site out in Antarctica’s “flat white”. I’ll also talk a little bit about life and work on the ice.

Pizza Lunch: Laurel Farris
Apr 24 @ 12:30 pm – 1:30 pm
Pizza Lunch: Laurel Farris @ AY 119

Determining the size of coronal bright points using cross-correlation methods

Laurel Farris


Pizza Lunch: Ken Naiff
Oct 16 @ 12:30 pm – 1:30 pm
Pizza Lunch: Ken Naiff @ AY 119

Dark Sky Images

Ken Naiff

Ken, an retired engineer, is a highly technically skilled and artistic
astrophotographer.  He will be sharing some of his work and elaborating on
the technical methods and processing techniques he applies to obtain his
unique and enhanced images.  You can see Ken’s work at: