Massive explosions, filament eruptions, changing magnetic fields, and other phenomena on the sun offer scientists a multitude of mysteries to solve. To help explore them, NASA has developed a very large observatory by combining several instruments on multiple spacecraft, including the recently launched Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). Not only do these solar instruments help fill in the scientific picture of our nearest star, they also improve our ability to protect life on Earth and in space from dangerous or disruptive space weather phenomena.
W. Dean Pesnell, project scientist for the Solar Dynamics Observatory at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, will discuss “The Many Colors of the Sun” at 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, March 17
, in the Mary Pickford Theater on the third floor of the James Madison Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C. The event is free and open to the public; tickets are not required.
The illustrated lecture, the second in a series of programs in 2011, is presented through a partnership between the Library’s Science, Technology and Business Division and the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. The partnership is in its fifth year.
“We need to understand what the sun is doing and how it affects us,” says Pesnell. He describes NASA’s space-based instruments as “doorways to the interior of the sun.” SDO is the first mission in a NASA science program called Living With a Star, the goal of which is to develop the scientific understanding necessary to address those aspects of the sun-Earth system that directly affect our lives and society.
Pesnell has published 80 papers in several research areas, including variable stars, the sun-earth connection, quantum mechanics and meteors in planetary atmospheres. He received his doctorate in 1983 from the University of Florida. After postdoctoral study at the University of Colorado and a visiting professorship at New Mexico State University, Pesnell came to NASA Goddard as a contractor in 1990. One project was to design the Living With a Star geospace missions. He started work on NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory mission in 2004 and became the project scientist in 2005.
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