Week Four: 27 hours

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Tuesday, July 5, 2016


Maria McQuillan

This week I continued working on analyzing and understanding periodic density structures in the solar wind, now more specifically in pseudo-streamers. A pseudo-streamer is a stream of solar wind that does not have an electric current. This property makes these streamers especially interesting because they produce slow solar wind, but don’t have the same characteristics as other streamers. Little is known about the formation of these streamers, but if we are able to find periodic density structures in these streams, we may be able to relate their behavior to other types of solar wind streams that have been more thoroughly studied.

My work this week has been centered around finding a set of structures, aptly named ‘blobs’, that were identified by another intern. Using data from the spacecrafts WIND and STEREO, we have been working on following these plasma blobs from the Earth back to the sun. So far I have been able to calculate the time that the blobs would have reached the sun and where I would expect to see them in the data. I am now working on being able to confidently identify the exact location of the blobs. While blobs might not sound very exciting, here is a picture of a much bigger blob called a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME). I am not studying CMEs in particular, but they look really neat :) They are basically explosions on the sun.

This patriotic weekend harbored not only the birthday of our country but also the 40th anniversary for the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. To celebrate this milestone, the Air and Space Museum was open all night this past Friday. We spent the entire night exploring the exhibits, going on tours, stargazing and enjoying the quiescence of a museum at 4am. After a long night at the museum we walked down the national mall and watched the sun rise at the WWII memorial. The pink glow of the sky behind the white marble of the memorial was truly lovely.

After sunrise we decided we hadn’t been awake long enough, so we waited a few more hours until we were able to climb to the top of the Washington Monument. The views were spectacular and after a 27-hour endeavor, the ‘day’ was finally over.

The final event for the weekend was a celebration of the birth of our nation. Unfortunately, it rained most of the day, but the cloudy skies made the fireworks show unforgettable. The fireworks behind the coulds completly filled the sky with plumes of color. A truly beautiful display to end the weekend. I'd also like to make a special tribute to my grandfather's would be 93rd birthday on the fourth of July, love you and miss you dearly.

Maria McQuillan