The Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph (IRIS) small explorer spacecraft provides simultaneous spectra and images of the photosphere, chromosphere, transition region, and corona with 0.33 – 0.4 arcsec spatial resolution, two-second temporal resolution, and 1 km s−1 velocity resolution over a field-of-view of up to 175 arcsec × 175 arcsec. IRIS was launched into a Sun-synchronous orbit on 27 June 2013 using a Pegasus-XL rocket and consists of a 19-cm UV telescope that feeds a slit-based dual-bandpass imaging spectrograph. IRIS obtains spectra in passbands from 1332 – 1358 Å, 1389 – 1407 Å, and 2783 – 2834 Å, including bright spectral lines formed in the chromosphere (Mg ii h 2803 Å and Mg ii k 2796 Å) and transition region (C ii 1334/1335 Å and Si iv 1394/1403 Å). Slit-jaw images in four different passbands (C ii 1330, Si iv 1400, Mg ii k 2796, and Mg ii wing 2830 Å) can be taken simultaneously with spectral rasters that sample regions up to 130 arcsec × 175 arcsec at a variety of spatial samplings (from 0.33 arcsec and up). IRIS is sensitive to emission from plasma at temperatures between 5000 K and 10 MK and will advance our understanding of the flow of mass and energy through an interface region, formed by the chromosphere and transition region, between the photosphere and corona. This highly structured and dynamic region not only acts as the conduit of all mass and energy feeding into the corona and solar wind, it also requires an order of magnitude more energy to heat than the corona and solar wind combined. The IRIS investigation includes a strong numerical modeling component based on advanced radiative–MHD codes to facilitate interpretation of observations of this complex region. Approximately eight Gbytes of data (after compression) are acquired by IRIS each day and made available for unrestricted use within a few days of the observation.
The Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) provides multiple simultaneous high-resolution full-disk images of the corona and transition region up to 0.5 R ⊙ above the solar limb with 1.5-arcsec spatial resolution and 12-second temporal resolution. The AIA consists of four telescopes that employ normal-incidence, multilayer-coated optics to provide narrow-band imaging of seven extreme ultraviolet (EUV) band passes centered on specific lines: Fe xviii (94 Å), Fe viii, xxi (131 Å), Fe ix (171 Å), Fe xii, xxiv (193 Å), Fe xiv (211 Å), He ii (304 Å), and Fe xvi (335 Å). One telescope observes C iv (near 1600 Å) and the nearby continuum (1700 Å) and has a filter that observes in the visible to enable coalignment with images from other telescopes. The temperature diagnostics of the EUV emissions cover the range from 6×104 K to 2×107 K. The AIA was launched as a part of NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) mission on 11 February 2010. AIA will advance our understanding of the mechanisms of solar variability and of how the Sun’s energy is stored and released into the heliosphere and geospace.
The Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) was launched on 11 February 2010 at 15:23 UT from Kennedy Space Center aboard an Atlas V 401 (AV-021) launch vehicle. A series of apogee-motor firings lifted SDO from an initial geosynchronous transfer orbit into a circular geosynchronous orbit inclined by 28° about the longitude of the SDO-dedicated ground station in New Mexico. SDO began returning science data on 1 May 2010. SDO is the first space-weather mission in NASA’s Living With a Star (LWS) Program. SDO’s main goal is to understand, driving toward a predictive capability, those solar variations that influence life on Earth and humanity’s technological systems. The SDO science investigations will determine how the Sun’s magnetic field is generated and structured, how this stored magnetic energy is released into the heliosphere and geospace as the solar wind, energetic particles, and variations in the solar irradiance. Insights gained from SDO investigations will also lead to an increased understanding of the role that solar variability plays in changes in Earth’s atmospheric chemistry and climate. The SDO mission includes three scientific investigations (the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA), Extreme Ultraviolet Variability Experiment (EVE), and Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager (HMI)), a spacecraft bus, and a dedicated ground station to handle the telemetry. The Goddard Space Flight Center built and will operate the spacecraft during its planned five-year mission life; this includes: commanding the spacecraft, receiving the science data, and forwarding that data to the science teams. The science investigations teams at Stanford University, Lockheed Martin Solar Astrophysics Laboratory (LMSAL), and University of Colorado Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) will process, analyze, distribute, and archive the science data. We will describe the building of SDO and the science that it will provide to NASA.
The Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager (HMI) investigation (Solar Phys. doi: 10.1007/s11207-011-9834-2 , 2011) will study the solar interior using helioseismic techniques as well as the magnetic field near the solar surface. The HMI instrument is part of the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) that was launched on 11 February 2010. The instrument is designed to measure the Doppler shift, intensity, and vector magnetic field at the solar photosphere using the 6173 Å Fe i absorption line. The instrument consists of a front-window filter, a telescope, a set of waveplates for polarimetry, an image-stabilization system, a blocking filter, a five-stage Lyot filter with one tunable element, two wide-field tunable Michelson interferometers, a pair of 40962 pixel cameras with independent shutters, and associated electronics. Each camera takes a full-disk image roughly every 3.75 seconds giving an overall cadence of 45 seconds for the Doppler, intensity, and line-of-sight magnetic-field measurements and a slower cadence for the full vector magnetic field. This article describes the design of the HMI instrument and provides an overview of the pre-launch calibration efforts. Overviews of the investigation, details of the calibrations, data handling, and the science analysis are provided in accompanying articles.
The Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager (HMI) instrument and investigation as a part of the NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) is designed to study convection-zone dynamics and the solar dynamo, the origin and evolution of sunspots, active regions, and complexes of activity, the sources and drivers of solar magnetic activity and disturbances, links between the internal processes and dynamics of the corona and heliosphere, and precursors of solar disturbances for space-weather forecasts. A brief overview of the instrument, investigation objectives, and standard data products is presented.
The Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager (HMI) began near-continuous full-disk solar measurements on 1 May 2010 from the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). An automated processing pipeline keeps pace with observations to produce observable quantities, including the photospheric vector magnetic field, from sequences of filtergrams. The basic vector-field frame list cadence is 135 seconds, but to reduce noise the filtergrams are combined to derive data products every 720 seconds. The primary 720 s observables were released in mid-2010, including Stokes polarization parameters measured at six wavelengths, as well as intensity, Doppler velocity, and the line-of-sight magnetic field. More advanced products, including the full vector magnetic field, are now available. Automatically identified HMI Active Region Patches (HARPs) track the location and shape of magnetic regions throughout their lifetime.The vector field is computed using the Very Fast Inversion of the Stokes Vector (VFISV) code optimized for the HMI pipeline; the remaining 180∘ azimuth ambiguity is resolved with the Minimum Energy (ME0) code. The Milne–Eddington inversion is performed on all full-disk HMI observations. The disambiguation, until recently run only on HARP regions, is now implemented for the full disk. Vector and scalar quantities in the patches are used to derive active region indices potentially useful for forecasting; the data maps and indices are collected in the SHARP data series, hmi.sharp_720s. Definitive SHARP processing is completed only after the region rotates off the visible disk; quick-look products are produced in near real time. Patches are provided in both CCD and heliographic coordinates.HMI provides continuous coverage of the vector field, but has modest spatial, spectral, and temporal resolution. Coupled with limitations of the analysis and interpretation techniques, effects of the orbital velocity, and instrument performance, the resulting measurements have a certain dynamic range and sensitivity and are subject to systematic errors and uncertainties that are characterized in this report.
A new data product from the Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager (HMI) onboard the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) called Space-weather HMI Active Region Patches (SHARPs) is now available. SDO/HMI is the first space-based instrument to map the full-disk photospheric vector magnetic field with high cadence and continuity. The SHARP data series provide maps in patches that encompass automatically tracked magnetic concentrations for their entire lifetime; map quantities include the photospheric vector magnetic field and its uncertainty, along with Doppler velocity, continuum intensity, and line-of-sight magnetic field. Furthermore, keywords in the SHARP data series provide several parameters that concisely characterize the magnetic-field distribution and its deviation from a potential-field configuration. These indices may be useful for active-region event forecasting and for identifying regions of interest. The indices are calculated per patch and are available on a twelve-minute cadence. Quick-look data are available within approximately three hours of observation; definitive science products are produced approximately five weeks later. SHARP data are available at jsoc.stanford.edu and maps are available in either of two different coordinate systems. This article describes the SHARP data products and presents examples of SHARP data and parameters.
In the last decade, the photospheric solar metallicity as determined from spectroscopy experienced a remarkable downward revision. Part of this effect can be attributed to an improvement of atomic data and the inclusion of NLTE computations, but also the use of hydrodynamical model atmospheres seemed to play a role. This “decrease” with time of the metallicity of the solar photosphere increased the disagreement with the results from helioseismology. With a CO 5 BOLD 3D model of the solar atmosphere, the CIFIST team at the Paris Observatory re-determined the photospheric solar abundances of several elements, among them C, N, and O. The spectroscopic abundances are obtained by fitting the equivalent width and/or the profile of observed spectral lines with synthetic spectra computed from the 3D model atmosphere. We conclude that the effects of granular fluctuations depend on the characteristics of the individual lines, but are found to be relevant only in a few particular cases. 3D effects are not responsible for the systematic lowering of the solar abundances in recent years. The solar metallicity resulting from this analysis is Z=0.0153, Z/X=0.0209.
The heliosphere represents a uniquely accessible domain of space, where fundamental physical processes common to solar, astrophysical and laboratory plasmas can be studied under conditions impossible to reproduce on Earth and unfeasible to observe from astronomical distances. Solar Orbiter, the first mission of ESA’s Cosmic Vision 2015 – 2025 programme, will address the central question of heliophysics: How does the Sun create and control the heliosphere? In this paper, we present the scientific goals of the mission and provide an overview of the mission implementation.
The Solar Optical Telescope (SOT) aboard the Hinode satellite (formerly called Solar-B) consists of the Optical Telescope Assembly (OTA) and the Focal Plane Package (FPP). The OTA is a 50-cm diffraction-limited Gregorian telescope, and the FPP includes the narrowband filtergraph (NFI) and the broadband filtergraph (BFI), plus the Stokes Spectro-Polarimeter (SP). The SOT provides unprecedented high-resolution photometric and vector magnetic images of the photosphere and chromosphere with a very stable point spread function and is equipped with an image-stabilization system with performance better than 0.01 arcsec rms. Together with the other two instruments on Hinode (the X-Ray Telescope (XRT) and the EUV Imaging Spectrometer (EIS)), the SOT is poised to address many fundamental questions about solar magnetohydrodynamics. This paper provides an overview; the details of the instrument are presented in a series of companion papers.
The Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) instrument onboard the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) is an array of four normal-incidence reflecting telescopes that image the Sun in ten EUV and UV wavelength channels. We present the initial photometric calibration of AIA, based on preflight measurements of the response of the telescope components. The estimated accuracy is of order 25%, which is consistent with the results of comparisons with full-disk irradiance measurements and spectral models. We also describe the characterization of the instrument performance, including image resolution, alignment, camera-system gain, flat-fielding, and data compression.
The Hinode satellite (formerly Solar-B) of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS/JAXA) was successfully launched in September 2006. As the successor to the Yohkoh mission, it aims to understand how magnetic energy gets transferred from the photosphere to the upper atmosphere and results in explosive energy releases. Hinode is an observatory style mission, with all the instruments being designed and built to work together to address the science aims. There are three instruments onboard: the Solar Optical Telescope (SOT), the EUV Imaging Spectrometer (EIS), and the X-Ray Telescope (XRT). This paper provides an overview of the mission, detailing the satellite, the scientific payload, and operations. It will conclude with discussions on how the international science community can participate in the analysis of the mission data.
The highly variable solar extreme ultraviolet (EUV) radiation is the major energy input to the Earth’s upper atmosphere, strongly impacting the geospace environment, affecting satellite operations, communications, and navigation. The Extreme ultraviolet Variability Experiment (EVE) onboard the NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) will measure the solar EUV irradiance from 0.1 to 105 nm with unprecedented spectral resolution (0.1 nm), temporal cadence (ten seconds), and accuracy (20%). EVE includes several irradiance instruments: The Multiple EUV Grating Spectrographs (MEGS)-A is a grazing-incidence spectrograph that measures the solar EUV irradiance in the 5 to 37 nm range with 0.1-nm resolution, and the MEGS-B is a normal-incidence, dual-pass spectrograph that measures the solar EUV irradiance in the 35 to 105 nm range with 0.1-nm resolution. To provide MEGS in-flight calibration, the EUV SpectroPhotometer (ESP) measures the solar EUV irradiance in broadbands between 0.1 and 39 nm, and a MEGS-Photometer measures the Sun’s bright hydrogen emission at 121.6 nm. The EVE data products include a near real-time space-weather product (Level 0C), which provides the solar EUV irradiance in specific bands and also spectra in 0.1-nm intervals with a cadence of one minute and with a time delay of less than 15 minutes. The EVE higher-level products are Level 2 with the solar EUV irradiance at higher time cadence (0.25 seconds for photometers and ten seconds for spectrographs) and Level 3 with averages of the solar irradiance over a day and over each one-hour period. The EVE team also plans to advance existing models of solar EUV irradiance and to operationally use the EVE measurements in models of Earth’s ionosphere and thermosphere. Improved understanding of the evolution of solar flares and extending the various models to incorporate solar flare events are high priorities for the EVE team.
In a previous study (Cane and Richardson, J. Geophys. Res. 108(A4), SSH6-1, 2003), we investigated the occurrence of interplanetary coronal mass ejections in the near-Earth solar wind during 1996 -aEuro parts per thousand 2002, corresponding to the increasing and maximum phases of solar cycle 23, and provided a "comprehensive" catalog of these events. In this paper, we present a revised and updated catalog of the a parts per thousand 300 near-Earth ICMEs in 1996 -aEuro parts per thousand 2009, encompassing the complete cycle 23, and summarize their basic properties and geomagnetic effects. In particular, solar wind composition and charge state observations are now considered when identifying the ICMEs. In general, these additional data confirm the earlier identifications based predominantly on other solar wind plasma and magnetic field parameters. However, the boundaries of ICME-like plasma based on charge state/composition data may deviate significantly from those based on conventional plasma/magnetic field parameters. Furthermore, the much studied "magnetic clouds", with flux-rope-like magnetic field configurations, may form just a substructure of the total ICME interval.
The plasma particle velocity distributions observed in the solar wind generally show enhanced (non-Maxwellian) suprathermal tails, decreasing as a power law of the velocity and well described by the family of Kappa distribution functions. The presence of non-thermal populations at different altitudes in space plasmas suggests a universal mechanism for their creation and important consequences concerning plasma fluctuations, the resonant and nonresonant wave – particle acceleration and plasma heating. These effects are well described by the kinetic approaches where no closure requires the distributions to be nearly Maxwellian. This paper summarizes and analyzes the various theories proposed for the Kappa distributions and their valuable applications in coronal and space plasmas.
We intend to provide a comprehensive answer to the question on whether all Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs) have flux rope structure. To achieve this, we present a synthesis of the LASCO CME observations over the last 16 years, assisted by 3D MHD simulations of the breakout model, EUV and coronagraphic observations from STEREO and SDO, and statistics from a revised LASCO CME database. We argue that the bright loop often seen as the CME leading edge is the result of pileup at the boundary of the erupting flux rope irrespective of whether a cavity or, more generally, a three-part CME can be identified. Based on our previous work on white light shock detection and supported by the MHD simulations, we identify a new type of morphology, the ‘two-front’ morphology. It consists of a faint front followed by diffuse emission and the bright loop-like CME leading edge. We show that the faint front is caused by density compression at a wave (or possibly shock) front driven by the CME. We also present highly detailed multi-wavelength EUV observations that clarify the relative positioning of the prominence at the bottom of a coronal cavity with a clear flux rope structure. Finally, we visually check the full LASCO CME database for flux rope structures. In the process, we classify the events into two clear flux rope classes (‘three-part’, and ‘Loop’), jets and outflows (no clear structure). We find that at least 40 % of the observed CMEs have clear flux rope structures and that ∼ 29 % of the database entries are either misidentifications or inadequately measured and should be discarded from statistical analyses. We propose a new definition for flux rope CMEs (FR-CMEs) as a coherent magnetic, twist-carrying coronal structure with angular width of at least 40∘ and able to reach beyond 10 R⊙ which erupts on a time scale of a few minutes to several hours. We conclude that flux ropes are a common occurrence in CMEs and pose a challenge for future studies to identify CMEs that are clearly not FR-CMEs.
Using observations from the High Energy Telescopes (HETs) on the STEREO A and B spacecraft and similar observations from near-Earth spacecraft, we summarize the properties of more than 200 individual > 25 MeV solar proton events, some detected by multiple spacecraft, that occurred from the beginning of the STEREO mission in October 2006 to December 2013, and provide a catalog of these events and their solar sources and associations. Longitudinal dependencies of the electron and proton peak intensities and delays to onset and peak intensity relative to the solar event have been examined for 25 three-spacecraft particle events. Expressed as Gaussians, peak intensities fall off with longitude with sigma=47 +/- 14(a similar to) for 0.7 -aEuro parts per thousand 4 MeV electrons, and sigma=43 +/- 13(a similar to) for 14 -aEuro parts per thousand 24 MeV protons. Several particle events are discussed in more detail, including one on 3 November 2011, in which similar to aEuro parts per thousand 25 MeV protons filled the inner heliosphere within 90 minutes of the solar event, and another on 7 March 2012, in which we demonstrate that the first of two coronal mass ejections that erupted from an active region within similar to aEuro parts per thousand 1 hour was associated with particle acceleration. Comparing the current Solar Cycle 24 with the previous cycle, the first > 25 MeV proton event was detected at Earth in the current solar cycle around one year after smoothed sunspot minimum, compared with a delay of only two months in Cycle 23. Otherwise, solar energetic particle event occurrence rates were reasonably similar during the rising phases of Cycles 23 and 24. However, the rate declined in 2013, reflecting the decline in sunspot number since the peak in the northern-hemisphere sunspot number in November 2011. Observations in late 2013 suggest that the rate may be rising again in association with an increase in the southern sunspot number.
Using observations from the High Energy Telescopes (HETs) on the STEREO A and B spacecraft and similar observations from near-Earth spacecraft, we summarize the properties of more than 200 individual > 25 MeV solar proton events, some detected by multiple spacecraft, that occurred from the beginning of the STEREO mission in October 2006 to December 2013, and provide a catalog of these events and their solar sources and associations. Longitudinal dependencies of the electron and proton peak intensities and delays to onset and peak intensity relative to the solar event have been examined for 25 three-spacecraft particle events. Expressed as Gaussians, peak intensities fall off with longitude with σ=47±14∘ for 0.7 – 4 MeV electrons, and σ=43±13∘ for 14 – 24 MeV protons. Several particle events are discussed in more detail, including one on 3 November 2011, in which ∼ 25 MeV protons filled the inner heliosphere within 90 minutes of the solar event, and another on 7 March 2012, in which we demonstrate that the first of two coronal mass ejections that erupted from an active region within ∼ 1 hour was associated with particle acceleration. Comparing the current Solar Cycle 24 with the previous cycle, the first > 25 MeV proton event was detected at Earth in the current solar cycle around one year after smoothed sunspot minimum, compared with a delay of only two months in Cycle 23. Otherwise, solar energetic particle event occurrence rates were reasonably similar during the rising phases of Cycles 23 and 24. However, the rate declined in 2013, reflecting the decline in sunspot number since the peak in the northern-hemisphere sunspot number in November 2011. Observations in late 2013 suggest that the rate may be rising again in association with an increase in the southern sunspot number.
Dynamics of a spatially-limited electron beam in the inhomogeneous solar corona plasma is considered in the framework of weak turbulence theory when the temperature of the beam significantly exceeds that of surrounding plasma. The numerical solution of kinetic equations manifests that generally the beam accompanied by Langmuir waves propagates as a beam-plasma structure with a decreasing velocity. Unlike the uniform plasma case the structure propagates with the energy losses in the form of Langmuir waves. The results obtained are compared with the results of observations of type III bursts. It is shown that the deceleration of type III sources can be explained by corona inhomogeneity. The frequency drift rates of the type III sources are found to be in good agreement with the numerical results of beam dynamics.
The EUV Imaging Spectrometer (EIS) on Hinode will observe solar corona and upper transition region emission lines in the wavelength ranges 170 – 210 Å and 250 – 290 Å. The line centroid positions and profile widths will allow plasma velocities and turbulent or non-thermal line broadenings to be measured. We will derive local plasma temperatures and densities from the line intensities. The spectra will allow accurate determination of differential emission measure and element abundances within a variety of corona and transition region structures. These powerful spectroscopic diagnostics will allow identification and characterization of magnetic reconnection and wave propagation processes in the upper solar atmosphere. We will also directly study the detailed evolution and heating of coronal loops. The EIS instrument incorporates a unique two element, normal incidence design. The optics are coated with optimized multilayer coatings. We have selected highly efficient, backside-illuminated, thinned CCDs. These design features result in an instrument that has significantly greater effective area than previous orbiting EUV spectrographs with typical active region 2 – 5 s exposure times in the brightest lines. EIS can scan a field of 6×8.5 arc min with spatial and velocity scales of 1 arc sec and 25 km s−1 per pixel. The instrument design, its absolute calibration, and performance are described in detail in this paper. EIS will be used along with the Solar Optical Telescope (SOT) and the X-ray Telescope (XRT) for a wide range of studies of the solar atmosphere.