Thursday, September 13, 2012

Blog about Research

This article:
talks about blogs that promote the author's research, and that women are less likely to blog about their research, and cite their own work in blogs at an even lower rate. And since my brother wanted me to start this blog to talk about what I do, I figured I should talk a bit about my research this week.

One of the projects I'm currently working on is to compare how hot ions get during two different types of geomagnetic storms. The news has started to talk about solar flares and coronal mass ejections, so hopefully you have heard at least a little about them. Solar flares are blasts of high energy radiation from the Sun, and coronal mass ejections (CMEs) are big chunks of energetic particles (ions and electrons) that are blasted off the Sun. The Earth's magnetic field creates a protective shield that keeps the CME from hitting Earth directly. Instead, the energetic particles enter the region around Earth, called the magnetosphere, only in places where the magnetic field breaks. Once inside the magnetosphere, these energetic particles flow around, creating currents and causing the aurora. This is called a geomagnetic storm.

But CMEs are not the only driver of geomagnetic storms. Another driver is called a high speed stream (HSS). The Sun is constantly expelling particles, called the solar wind. The speed of these particles varies, but ranges from about 300 to 1000 km/s. If a region of slow solar wind is heading toward Earth, followed by a region of high speed solar wind, the fast solar wind will catch up to the slow solar wind. The interaction between the two regions can also drive geomagnetic storms. I wrote a paper describing how hot the ions get during one of these high speed stream-driven storms [Keesee et al., 2012].

Now I'm trying to do an analysis of the average ion temperature over all of the storms during late 2008-early 2012 and compare them during the two types of storms. So one of the things that I have to do is figure out when storms happened and which type of driver, CME or HSS, the storm had. Papers often get published that identify this for a set of storms, but it usually occurs for a previous chunk of time, so nothing has come out for this interval yet. First, I tried to look at criteria that other people have described to decide for myself what the driver was. But that was incredibly difficult! Using different resources led to conflicting designations, and some were just totally ambiguous. I had a lot of question marks in my notes!

Then this week while I was looking through more references, I found the most awesome resource ever! NOAA-the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (they bring you the weather)-has a Space Weather Prediction Center that publishes a weekly report on all of the solar and geophysical activity for the previous week plus a prediction for the upcoming week. The report gives a play-by-play of the geomagnetic storms and what caused them. Super Awesome!!! So now that problem is solved. Yay!

This week I also finished a draft of a paper that has been in the works for awhile and really needs to be finalized and submitted. I sent it to a co-author for comments.

And tonight we had a panel that I organized as a part of the Association for Women in Science. It was called What Can I Do With a Science Degree? and consisted of 3 women scientists in a variety of careers: a Congressional Science Policy Fellow, a Research Scientist for the US Forest Service, and an Independent Consultant that does project management and software/equipment validation. It went really well: we had a good audience and some great conversation!

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