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「超大太陽風暴」- Naked Science: Massive Solar Storms


Space-based observatories provide us with the unique view of solar activity. In 2006, NASA launched twin state-of-the-art satellites to study at close hand, solar storms and sunspots: visible signs of deep magnetic activity that affects the whole solar system.

The scientists borrow a trick from 1950's B movies to create a Three-D image of the sun. They deploy two satellites orbiting in tandem, one in front of the other, so they can build a three-dimensional image back on Earth. This Three-D image will provide crucial new data on massive explosions of electrified plasma, called solar storms.

Billions of tons of superheated gas fly into space and buffet the Earth's atmosphere, creating the most dramatic northern and southern lights. Michael Kaiser of the Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory, or STEREO, "We wanna monitor the storm so that we can better predict them. These storms are basically electrical storms, and they can affect spacecraft and ground power system. GPS can be upset."
數十億噸的超熱瓦斯氣體飛進太空衝撞地球大氣層,產生最引人注目的北極、南極光。日地關係觀測台(STEREO)的Michael Kaiser說:「我們想要監測風暴,以便我們可以更準確地預測它們。這些風暴基本上是電子風暴,而且它們會影響太空船還有地面電力系統。全球定位系統會亂掉。」

Solar storms are caused by lines of magnetic force ripping through the sun's gaseous surface and snapping, spewing out hot gases and a fierce stream of charged particles, the most powerful type of what's called "solar wind." Some storms take two days to strike the Earth, while very large ejections arrive in only twelve hours. STEREO could give us time, to put satellites and electric power grids into safe mode, and move astronauts into protected sections of the space station.

"The ones we're interested in, and the ones coming right at us are particularly difficult to estimate the speed and velocity."

A simple demo shows how two satellites allow scientists to calculate the speed of this solar wind. Michael Kaiser ejects a jet of liquid at a plate of glass. From the front, it's difficult to measure the speed. This is the way older satellites used to view solar storms. But from the side, you can measure two points along the projectile, and calculate the speed more easily.
一個簡單的示範展示出兩顆衛星如何讓科學家計算太陽風的速度。Michael Kaiser朝一塊玻璃射出一股液體。從前端,很難測量出速率。這是衛星用來觀測太陽風暴的古老方法。但是從側面,你可以沿著發射體量測出兩點,並更簡單的計算出速度。

Studying solar storms, not just from the front, but the side as well doesn't just reveal their speed, it also shows where they come from. The answer turns out to be the area around sunspots. These dark spots on the sun's surface were shrouded in mystery until the 20th century when scientists realized that they were connected with the way the sun generates heat at its core. Once scientists understood that the sun got its energy from nuclear reactions, the answer became clear. Nuclear fusion within the sun creates the conditions for powerful magnetic effects. The currents of superheated gas generate intense magnetic fields. As the sun's interior churns, vast loops of magnetic force appear, merge and disappear, creating sunspots.

Luckily there's a way to visualize it right here on Earth, in the comfort of your own kitchen. NASA astronomer Sten Odenwald compares magnetic field lines to spaghetti. "The surface of the sun is very hot gases that are turning over in a boiling motion. What you're seeing in the pot of water is the convecting water coming up to the surface and releasing its heat and then sinking back down into the pot to get reheated." T The rolling strands of spaghetti are like the magnetic field lines churning beneath the sun's surface.
幸運的是有個方法可以在地球這裡將它視覺化,就方便的在你家廚房裡。太空總署太空人Sten Odenwald把磁力線跟義大利麵比較。「太陽表面是非常熱的瓦斯氣體以沸騰狀態翻來覆去,你在水鍋裡看到的是對流水來到水面並且釋放熱量然後沉回鍋底再次加熱。」滾動的義大利麵條像是磁力線在太陽表面之下攪動一般。




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