Lab scientist receives NASA award for the Solar Dynamics Observatory mission

Feb. 1, 2013

Lab scientist receives NASA award for the Solar Dynamics Observatory mission

Lab Scientist Regina Soufli, a member of NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) Science Investigation Team recently received a Group Achievement Award from NASA.

This certificate is awarded to a group of both government and non-government employees who together have made accomplishments that significantly contribute to NASA's mission. Launched in 2010, SDO is NASA's most advanced solar mission to date. It studies the sun's interior, its atmosphere, called the corona, and the impacts on Earth's upper atmosphere and nearby space environment.

Soufli, a member of the Physics Division, led a team of LLNL staff including Jeff Robinson, Eberhard Spiller, Sherry Baker and Jay Ayers as well as collaborators from Lawrence Berkeley Lab and other institutions in the design, development, fabrication and calibration of the multilayer mirrors aboard the SDO imaging telescopes. Soufli also is working with other SDO scientists on continuing improvements of the photometric calibration of the SDO imaging instrument.

The SDO multilayer mirrors act as reflective lenses and are responsible for capturing the images and movies of the sun produced by SDO at seven extreme ultraviolet (EUV) wavelengths. These movies are shown by news media outlets whenever there is intense solar activity such as solar flares and coronal mass ejections.

By imaging the sun at specific EUV emission lines from the solar plasma, the SDO telescopes record solar activity in exquisite spatial, spectral and temporal resolution for the purpose of studying and elucidating the sun's extremely complex and dynamic magnetic field, its plasma and related phenomena.

SDO has already contributed to several groundbreaking discoveries, including sympathetic solar flares and super-high-speed solar waves. It also has enabled modeling efforts to predict solar activity, including extreme events (such as flares and coronal mass ejections), which when directed toward Earth, can disrupt satellite communications and electricity grids and may pose threats to aviation and astronaut safety. SDO also has brought scientists closer to solving the most intriguing enigma in modern solar physics: the coronal heating mechanism. In other words: why is the sun's outer atmosphere (the corona, reaching temperatures of several million degrees) significantly hotter than the sun's surface (the photosphere) and what are the mechanisms of coronal heat generation and transfer?

NASA SDO project scientist Dean Pesnell said the team is highly deserving of this award.

"They have worked for a decade to build, launch and run SDO," he said. "The spectacular imagery and science we get from SDO are a result of their dedication and hard work."

SDO deputy project scientist Phil Chamberlin said the team collaboration enabled its scientists to make some groundbreaking discoveries.

"It's what NASA does enabling science," he said. "It's good for the people on the team to get recognized at this level to show they've done an amazing job."

For more information on the SDO mission, see the NNSA Website.