Up-to-the minute reports and photographs detailing magnetic fields, radiation and high-energy particles surrounding the sun will soon be available on a new website to be developed and operated by solar physicists at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT).
“The world’s first real-time space weather prediction system will offer photos, space locations and detailed descriptions of phenomena surrounding the sun,” said the project’s principal investigator Haimin Wang, Ph.D., professor of physics at NJIT. This system will be part of a Virtual Solar Observatory currently being developed by a community of solar physicists in the United States.
Last month, the National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded Wang a $1 million research grant to develop and construct the new real-time system. Wang, a noted solar expert, expects the website to be up and running within two years.
Key research scientists leading the Virtual Solar Observatory project are Joseph Gurman, Ph.D., project scientist at the Solar Helospheric Observatory, Goddard Space Flight Center, the National Aeronautic Space Administration (NASA), Greenbelt, MD and Frank Hill, Ph.D., an astronomer with the National Solar Observatory, Tucson, AZ.
NJIT will honor Wang’s research efforts for this project, as well as other notable ones, Oct. 8, 3:30 p.m. at NJIT’s annual Fall Awards. The respected physicist will receive the university’s highest honor—the Harlan J. Perliss Award for Research.
EDITOR’s NOTE: Wang will be available for interviews at the ceremony during which the former native of China will speak more about his work. For more information, contact Sheryl Weinstein, 973-596-3436.)
Wang expects regular visitors to the website to include scientists from National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), NASA, the U.S. Air Force and Navy, power, communication and airline companies throughout the world. Although similar space weather forecasts are currently available on NOAA, scientists are able to publish this information only once daily.
Students working on the project with Wang are Alex Lim, (Glen Ridge), a freshman expecting to major in applied physics and Ming Qu, (Newark) a Ph.D. student in computer science.
Also working on the project are Carston Denker, Ph.D., (Westfield) assistant professor of physics at NJIT; Frank Shih, Ph.D. (Morris Plains) professor of computer science at NJIT; Alex Gerbessiotis, (Springfield) Ph.D., assistant professor of computer science at NJIT; Christoph Kelle, Ph.D., astronomer, NSO; Mats Lofdahl, Ph.D., astronomer, Royal Swedish Astronomical Observatory; David Rees, Ph.D., a scientist associated with Sydney University.
The heart of the project consists of a bank of 64 high-power dedicated and linked computers to be set up first in a laboratory at NJIT. Eventually the computers will be transported to Big Bear Solar Observatory (BBSO), Big Bear, California.
This cluster of instruments will enable researchers to have enough power to create a flow of graphic and computational materials the likes of which solar physicists have never seen before. “The application of parallel computing is new to solar physics,” said Wang. “That’s why we’ve asked several computer scientists from NJIT to work on the project.” Until now, solar physicists had to process images off-line because it took too long to process them on line. However the new system at NJIT should change all that for everyone in the world.”
The ambitious project will also employ artificial intelligence to detect different solar activities in real-time. The computer scientists will first develop a method using computers and logarithms to capture the information. Eventually, they will develop a complimentary software program.
Lastly, the project will use a new $20,000 computer to create a larger archival system. “Our current computer only stores data digitally on a magnetic tape,” said Wang. “Not only does the old system retrieve data too slowly, but it stores only a fraction of the images and information we need. In addition, no one outside of NJIT can access the data. Our new archival computer will change all that for the better.”
Wang received his Ph.D. in astronomy from California Institute of Technology in 1988 and his B.S. in astronomy from Nanjing University in 1982. Wang’s research interests are solar physics and phenomena of the atmosphere of the sun including solar flares, sunspots, active regions, filaments and prominences.
Recent scholarship by Wang includes the following articles: ''Sudden Disappearance of a Small Sunspot Associated with the 2002 February 20 M2.4 Flare," Haimin Wang, Haisheng Ji, Edward J. Schmahl, Jiong Qiu, Chang Liu, and Na Deng, 2002, Ap.J. Letters, 580, L177; ''Rapid Changes of Magnetic Fields Associated with Six X-Class Flares," Haimin Wang, Thomas J.Spirock, Jiong Qiu, Haisheng Ji, Vasyl Yurchyshyn, Yong-Jae Moon, Carsten Denker, and Philip R. Goode, 2002, Ap. J., 576, 497.
The new space weather forecasting system is one of several ongoing solar initiatives at NJIT under the direction of the Center for Solar-Terrestrial Research (CSTR) directed by Phillip R. Goode, Ph.D., distinguished professor of physics at NJIT and director of BBSO, California. CSTR promotes research of the sun and operates two facilities in California: BBSO and Owens Valley Radio Observatory.