Probing Exoplanet Atmospheric Properties from Phase Variations and Polarization
Laura Mayorga, NMSU
The study of exoplanets is evolving past simple transit and Doppler method discovery and characterization. One of the many goals of the upcoming mission WFIRST-AFTA is to directly image giant exoplanets with a coronagraph. We undertake a study to determine the types of exoplanets that missions such as WFIRST will encounter and what instruments these missions require to best characterize giant planet atmospheres. We will first complete a benchmark study of how Jupiter reflects and scatters light as a function of phase angle. We will use Cassini flyby data from late 2000 to measure Jupiter’s phase curve, spherical albedo, and degree of polarization. Using Jupiter as a comparison, we will then study a sample of exoplanet atmosphere models generated to explore the atmospheric parameter space of giant planets and estimate what WFIRST might observe. Our study will provide valuable refinements to Jupiter-like models of planet evolution and atmospheric composition. We will also help inform future missions of what instruments are needed to characterize similar planets and what science goals will further our knowledge of giant worlds in our universe.
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.
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.
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.
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.