TEDxCanarias - Valentin Martinez-Pillet - A new vision of the Sun (Spanish)

Uploaded by TEDxTalks on 21.03.2010

When I finished my BA in Physical Sciences at the University of Valencia
I decided to specialize in Astrophysics.
If you want to do Astrophysics in Spain you must go to La Laguna.
That was the case in 1985 and remains so today.
People come from all over Europe to study Astrophysics here.
The Department of Astrophysics is inside the Canary Island Astrophysics Institute.
The Institute of Astrophysics has two international observatories.
The Roque de los Muchachos Observatory and the Teide Observatory, in Tenerife.
These telescopes are leaders in the world and they have cutting-edge instrumentation
that attracts scientists from all over the world.
There was a very good breeding ground, so I decided to come here.
I landed in Tenerife in 1985, and if someone had told me back then:
Well, in fact, to an exclusive part of the Canarian society.
I think that we are here because we all have very specific interests.
I'd love to share my dream with you and give something back to this society.
which would be great, it would mean that I had finished the degree
and that I had a job as an astrophysicist, which was not so evident back then.
I would have thought: 'I'll be talking about scientific projects
and observations in the Canaries.' Projects like the ones you can see here.
But this is not true because I'm not here to talk about researches
made in the Canary Islands observatories, but in a telescope, launched in a balloon,
which has flown from the Arctic Circle to observe the Sun.
Now you might think: 'This sounds odd.'
'Here you have some super telescopes, why do you go to the Arctic Circle?'.
This is also what the director of IAC said when I mentioned the idea.
I said, 'I want to go to the Polar Circle to launch a balloon'.
And he replied: 'Are you OK, is anything wrong?'.
I said, 'I'm OK, it's just that we have decided to do do it'.
The Canary Islands have great skies, this is why we have the telescopes here.
I hope we can have more like, for example, the 42-meter one, called E-ELT,
which has been mentioned in the media.
But there is always an atmosphere that distorts astronomical images.
We wanted to go out to the space, remove the atmosphere
and see astronomical objects with the best detail possible.
So some friends, all of them astronomers and physicists decided to do it.
This has been something unexpected. Which is what I want to talk about today.
I'm talking about things... We were at a conference,
some German colleagues, some Americans and us, from the Spanish Institute
and someone said: 'How can we study these processes in detail?'.
One of them knew about the NASA program that launches balloons from the Poles
and said: 'What if we take a telescope, we launch it from the Arctic Circle
and observe the Sun out of the atmosphere?'.
These balloons fly 40 km above the Earth.
There is virtually no atmosphere or the distortion I mentioned before.
So we decided to try.
It was something that grew, as I say here, from bottom to top.
I want to emphasize these processes that start just because people want.
There is no one, no managers or leaders
in the world astrophysics that can tell us:
'Why don't you do it? Why can not you go to the Pole to throw a balloon?'
No, it's just a little crazy idea.
Unexpected things have a huge impact in this case, in Solar Physics,
because the results have been very good, as you will see.
No one imagined that we'd launch a telescope to do this.
The impact is enormous.
As I grow older I become aware
that life depends precisely on this sort of things.
Unexpected things that have a huge impact on our lives.
You might say, 'But you are especial, you've launched a telescope from the Arctic
and that's pretty unexpected.' But this can happen to anyone.
I'll give you an example of something that affects us all.
Google. Who would have imagined that Google would exist?
Who would have guessed the impact Google has on our lives?
When a program doesn't work, you can google it to find the solution.
You do it and it works. And you think you're good with computers.
But it's Google that one that is good with computers, not you.
Google has made us more effective.
No one, nor a Finance Agency or Government decided
to create something like this.
Google was developed by Stanford students who said:
'We are going to make it.' And look what we have now.
Google has made Humanity more effective.
It's like the Industrial Revolution and I don't think this is exaggerated.
And these are all processes coming from bottom to top.
It is a context in which these things can be promoted.
The balloon idea was something similar.
In the case of Solar Physics we wanted to study the Sun.
We see it on Las Teresitas beach, where we go to sunbathe.
It is a very interesting object. It's much more than a yellow ball.
Here you can see the sun in 1996 and then in 1999.
There is a three year difference, we see a very different Sun.
There is a group of processes called 'solar brightening'
that appear and disappear.
The sun is much more than a yellow, inert and boring ball.
Something is happening in the Sun and can see these changes.
In astrophysics it is very difficult see things change.
The astronomical scales are very large, so we can't see the changes of a galaxy.
But the Sun is constantly changing and we can see it.
Here we can see different days
passing very quickly. You can see that something is changing in the Sun
and this is provoking all kinds of small explosions.
And indeed they are, for all purposes, like explosions.
Some of them may be very violent.
For example, here you have two hours shown at very high speed.
This black shadow that pops up here is almost ballistic.
This is a magnetic explosion on the surface of the Sun.
I'll also talk about magnetic fields
because they are the ones that make the Sun so interesting.
All these brightenings are magnetic brightenings.
Here you can see the Sun, is this white spot we have blocked,
this white circle we are blocking.
Is the same process observed with a different instrument.
This was observed from the outer space.
It is the only place where you can see these ultraviolet radiations.
We also can see this explosion that pops up when viewed from here.
From here we see something coming out from that direction.
It is the same explosion but in the outer part of the Sun,
'Has the Sun many explosions?' Yes, it has many.
Specifically, in what is called the "cycle of activity,"
that part we saw at first with a very active Sun,
can reach 4 explosions per day. This is 1 solar month at the maximum.
It is constantly ejecting these coronal masses.
These magnetic explosions determine the environment.
To navigate through the Solar System -and Mankind will do it sooner or later,
we must undestand the spatial weather and these solar explosions.
This is a fundamental issue studied by the Solar Physics
in order to predict these explosions.
What you see behind, crossing the image, are the planets.
They are in an elliptical orbit and of course, they go round.
The vast majority of these explosions seem to go down.
Occasionally you will see an explosion around this circle.
What happens when it doesn't go down but it seems to go in all directions?
Well, this means that the exposion is coming toward us.
It goes to Earth.
This explosion took place in 2000, on the day of the Bastille.
The French say that the Sun was celebrating the French Revolution.
Here we have a very big explosion that almost reached the detector
and produced these brightenings and these sparks.
This was on July 14, Bastille Day.
You can ask me if you don't understand something.
I was talking about magnetic explosions on the Sun.
Here is a blast which occurs very close...
Near the center of the disc.
Here you see the explosion, and this is the solar disc.
It's very close, as seen in the other instruments
showing these ejections oriented at 90 degrees,
whereas here the brightening takes place around the Sun.
When you see it like this, it means the explosion is going to the Earth.
You can see it in this animation.
The magnetic explosion reaches the Earth
which it has its own magnetic field. This is something good.
It is a magnetic field that protects us as a defensive shield.
This magnetic field directs radiations toward the Poles,
they are the ones who suffer most these radiations.
But there are some other objects which suffer from these radiations
and these are the communication satellites situated outside the Shield.
You might say, 'Well, too bad for the satellites.'
But our mobile phones, our GPS, our Iphones,
all of them use satellite communications
and may be affected by electromagnetic storms.
These satellites can end up literally 'fried'
if their chips are too sensitive to radiation.
So, as you see, this can affect us and very directly.
What I'm trying to say is
that the Sun is of the most important astrophysical object for us.
What happens in a distant galaxy may be of interest for a sci-fi film
but has little impact on Earth.
So the Sun is an interesting object we must study
to be able to predict such explosions.
That is what Solar Physics is trying to do right now.
The Sunrise project
decided to launch a balloon from the Arctic Circle
to understand the magnetism in a very small scale.
Everything you see here are magnets in the Sun.
On Earth we have a magnetic field, a compass can tells us where we are.
But the Sun is gaseous and has millions of compasses,
and all of them pointing in different directions.
If we'd try to use a compass in the Sun it would point to different directions
depending on the movements of solar plasma.
The Sun is a very interesting and complex object.
We wanted to discover the origin of its magnetism and explosions
and that is why decided to start the Sunrise experiment.
In order to predict solar storms
you have to be able to see millions of details of only 100 km.
We must be able to see something like Tenerife
and even smaller objects.
And to have that resolution we needed to avoid the atmosphere
The idea was, "Well, let's go to the Arctic Circle
put a 1 meter telescope in an basket, and launch a balloon.
This is the Sunrise project. This was taken on the day of release.
Here is the basket -I will talk about it later,
is the American contribution. This is a NASA program
in which they launch balloons from both Poles.
In this case the launch took place at the North Pole.
So the basket was an American contribution, from the U.S.
The telescope is German.
And the tool that measures the magnetic field
is a Spanish tool led by the Astrophysics of the Canaries.
In the end, the most important thing is people.
And these people have devoted a lot of time to this project,
this began in 2001.
These two German Institutes have worked for many years
to provided the telescope and the stabilizer.
The basket and the flight system were made in America.
And the Canaries Astrophysical made the Imax instrument.
IMaX is an instrument from which I have been the leading researcher
altogether with the Astrophysical. It is a complex project
developed in collaboration with other Spanish centers of Astrophysics.
The INTA, National Institute of Aerospace Technology in Madrid,
The Astrophysics of Andalusia, the Polytechnic University of Madrid
and the University of Valencia.
We started the IMaX magnetograph since practically 2001.
Here you see it in the summer of 2008, in the vacuum room of the INTA,
about to do vacuum testing.
And it is just a lot of cables and complex things.
And one of these things is the flattest object in the world.
It is an element that is flat by plus minus 1 molecule.
It is very difficult to get something as flat.
And we needed this for the spectroscopy.
It's a very complex technology of liquid crystal
was needed to measure magnetic fields.
That took us a long time, it was really complex.
Before this instrument there had been only three more,
all of them made by a U.S. aerospace company.
It is the fourth of the world and has been made in Spain.
This is October 2008.
When the instrument was finished.
All this is within this box.
This is the IMAX, the electronics box of the computer that controls it.
Once integrated and verified, we sent it to Germany.
This is the arrival of the instrument to Germany inside the container,
from there, it goes to the room where the Germans had the telescope.
Here is the telescope the Germans had already made.
Here is the focal plane system they would later put over here,
in our electronics box. This is the German electronics box.
Here are the panels of the electronics boxes.
Once we had it all together we went to the Arctic Circle.
We went to the city of Kiruna, the northernmost city in Sweden,
where the Swedish Space Agency had a launching site called ESRANGE.
There, they had special sites where we completed the integration.
We worked all the time here, at the site of the Cathedral.
It is an idyllic landscape, but basically it's a white landscape.
We stayed from April to June when we first tested it
at ESRANGE, in this cathedral.
The Americans had already sent the basket you have here.
They had built it in inches
and telescope was done in centimeters.
It is always interesting when the final integration comes
and you have to see whether the measures are the same. Here we had no problem.
In one day, the telescope fitted perfectly in the the basket.
It fitted smoothly, without any confusion that delayed us.
The first thing we did as we had some sun, was pointing the telescope
in order to gauge the IMaX, the instrument I have showed you
that was led by the Astrophysics Center.
We must look to the Sun before flying.
We worked here for two months until the launch phase.
I want to show you the launch.
If you put in Google "SUNRISE ESRANGE" you will find this video.
After nine years of work, this was a really...
spectacular moment, as you can imagine.
I'll show you just the first part of the launch.
If... Windows decides to work.
Here it is.
The balloon is caught by a clamp that is later released,
and this here is a parachute. Here we have a pyrotechnic element
that will explode when we say so.
The balloon goes up and the telescope is later recovered in the ground.
Here you can see it.
At the launch there is also a crane managed by people from NASA.
They have to wait until the ballon is...
vertical, to ensure it doesn't baunce too much.
In two hours it goes up to 40 km above Earth's surface.
At 40 km you have left behind 99.9% of the atmosphere
and have no distortions of the image.
This is the launch crane, when it gets it here, it will be released.
Here we are tying it up here, now the balloon will go up
to the stratosphere.
You can see the entire video on Google if you put the words SUNRISE ESRANGE.
The balloon...
flew from Sweden
crossed the North Atlantic, Greenland and was collected in Canada.
We could not fly over Russia they don't allow Americans
in case they flew over to spy on them. It is a legacy of the Cold War.
We don't want to end up at sea. Want to end up on an island in Canada.
And here on the island of Somerset we recovered the mirror of the telescope,
our instrument was also recovered, it's now in Madrid, working perfectly.
And this is how ended the basket, much more damaged, and the solar panels.
The truth is that we recovered many things.
Since the recovery of the data, in June last year,
we are doing real science. The scientific community is thrilled,
scientists are using these data and the results are fantastic.
I will not go into details now.
Here is the velocity image of the surface of the sun
with a level of detail never achieved before.
What you see in black, goes to you and what it is in white, goes inside.
It is a velocity map.
The so called 'swimming pool' effect
is an effect that resembles the bottom of a swimming pool,
these are earthquakes in the Sun. They had never been seen with this detail.
We can see things at 100 km, they would be reflected there.
So, what is my conclusion?
Well, this was something that came from bottom to top, naturally.
Nobody told us what we had to do.
We did what we wanted and we succeded.
I believe that high-impact things, the really important things,
always come from from bottom to top.
Why don't I trust in things that come from from top to bottom?
Because we really don't know as many things as we think.
Look at this turkey, he has been fed everyday at 9 am for a thousand days,
he is sure he will always be fed.
One day, when he expects to eat, something very different happens.
When we have no security of what will happen in the future,
the best we can do is allow people act from bottom to top
because it will be much more natural
than having people above telling us what we have to do.
We don't really know what will happen tomorrow.
And this is the message I wanted to pass on.
In Astrophysics, We have a Technology Center
but we need critical mass and Universities.
We need to interact together.
I think that interaction can be given in forums such as TEDx.
Let's see what ideas emerge from here. The best we can do is to talk.
We can suggest things that change our society.
Thank you.