CU Boulder new frontier with EVE launch

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Posted Thu, Feb 25, 2010

A $32 million instrument packet funded by NASA and created by the University of Colorado at Boulder, was launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla., yesterday morning. The instrument launched will improve our understanding of the intense radiation of the sun on near-Earth space weather, which will have a tremendous affect of power grids, satellites and ground communications.

The mission, referred to as the Extreme Ultraviolet Variability Experiment, or EVE, is one of three instruments aboard NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory rocket (SDO). The construction of EVE initiated in 2008 and was built at the University of Colorado, Boulder, in the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP), the University of Southern California and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

EVE will measure the solar EUV irradiance with unprecedented spectral resolution, temporal cadence, accuracy and precision, said Tom Woods, principle investigator on the EVE experiment.

“SDO will pin-point how solar activity is created and the resulting space weather by measuring the sun’s interior, its magnetic field, the hot plasma of the solar corona and the radiation streaming from the sun,” Woods said.

Surges of extreme ultraviolet emissions rise and fall dramatically over short periods of time, when the Sun is active. Woods said that these extreme ultraviolet emissions can also create a layer of ions that can interrupt radio communications and global positioning system navigation.

“Overall, our goal is to be able to transfer the data collected to our systems, and make better space weather predictions.”

Furthermore, EVE will improve variability measurements and predictions. Also, as stated by LASP, the mission will increase our knowledge on how these variations can affect the life on Earth.

“EVE will collect data 24 hrs. a day, 7 days a week, and offer the first complete picture of the dynamic fluctuations in the extreme ultraviolet emissions from our Sun,” said Frank Epavier, co-investigator to EVE. By understanding this data, scientists can model the Sun’s variability and better predict when extreme ultraviolet emissions might impact the Earth. The instrument will also make measurements every 10 seconds for the next five years hovering 22,000 miles from Earth, while transferring all its data to its primary ground station near Las Cruces, N.M. Previous instruments used on similar mission only captured 3 percent of the solar flares that occur on the sun, said Woods. With 10 times the resolution of previous instruments, the EVE will be able to see 100 percent of all the solar flares, of which may occur several times a day during strong activity.

“The sun is the vehicle of all space weather, and with this in mind we have created a wonder platform that will allow us to more clearly see what is headed our way,” Woods said.

Even before NASA was formed, LASP was already making solar measurements starting in the 1940s. The organization have been involved in numerous projects since their existence, including the building and flying of NASA’s Solar Mesosperic Explorer Satellite, which measured the sun’s effect on ozone destruction, to the Solar Radiation and Climate Experiment, a $100 million NASA satellite that is currently measuring effects of solar radiation on the Earth’s climate.

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