2011

Software Displays Data on Active Regions of the Sun

The Solar Active Region Display System is a computer program that generates, in near real time, a graphical display of parameters indicative of the spatial and temporal variations of activity on the Sun. These parameters include histories and distributions of solar flares, active region growth, coronal mass ejections, size, and magnetic configuration.

By presenting solar-activity data in graphical form, this program accelerates, facilitates, and partly automates what had previously been a time-consuming mental process of interpretation of solar-activity data presented in tabular and textual formats. Intended for original use in predicting space weather in order to minimize the exposure of astronauts to ionizing radiation, the program might also be useful on Earth for predicting solar-wind-induced ionospheric effects, electric currents, and potentials that could affect radio-communication systems, navigation systems, pipelines, and long electric-power lines.

Raw data for the display are obtained automatically from the Space Environment Center (SEC) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Other data must be obtained from the NOAA SEC by verbal communication and entered manually. The Solar Active Region Display System automatically accounts for the latitude dependence of the rate of rotation of the Sun, by use of a mathematical model that is corrected with NOAA SEC active-region position data once every 24 hours. The display includes the date, time, and an image of the Sun in Hα light overlaid with latitude and longitude coordinate lines, dots that mark locations of active regions identified by NOAA, identifying numbers assigned by NOAA to such regions, and solar-region visual summary (SRVS) indicators associated with some of the active regions.

Each SRVS indicator is a small pie chart containing five equal sectors, each of which is color-coded to provide a semiquantitative indication of the degree of hazard posed by one aspect of the activity at the indicated location. The five aspects in question are the history of solar flares, the history of coronal mass ejections, the growth or decay of activity, the overall size, and the magnetic configuration.

Mouse-clicking on an active-region-marking dot, SRVS indicator, or NOAA region number causes the program to generate a solar-region summary table (SRT) for the active region in question. The SRT contains additional quantitative and qualitative data, beyond those contained in the SRVS: These data include the solar coordinates of the region, the area of the region and its change in area during the past 24 hours, the change in the number of sunspots in the region during the past 24 hours, the magnetic configuration, and the types, dates, and times of the most recent flare and coronal mass ejection.

This program was written by Mike Golightly of Johnson Space Center, Mark Weyland of Lockheed Martin, and Vern Raben of Raben Systems, Inc. For further information, contact the JSC Innovation Partnerships Office at (281) 483-3809. MSC-23300-1

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