An electrical and computer engineering sophomore at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) was named a Goldwater scholar earlier this week by the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program. Mohammad Farhan Haider Naqvi, of Hamilton Township, received the honor based upon his analysis of energy emitted from the Sun, since 1996.
Naqvi used images taken at Big Bear Solar Observatory in California to reveal data about changes in the Sun’s magnetic fields. NJIT has operated and managed Big Bear since 1997. The observatory is one of two, ground-based, observatories in the US capable of high-resolution solar observation, supported by NASA and the National Science Foundation.
To better understand climate change, global warming and the human contribution to both, Naqvi searched an electronic archive of daily images of the Sun, taken at Big Bear. “He was looking for patterns in ultra-violet radiation that might occur in the Sun’s chromosphere,” said Carsten Denker, PhD, an assistant professor in NJIT’s Physics Department. Denker was Naqvi’s advisor.
The chromosphere located about 1000 miles above the Sun’s visible surface, is one of the star’s four atmospheric layers. Small magnetic fields can easily be identified in the chromosphere, making it an attractive region for scientific inquiry.
The effort proved fruitful: A small portion of the Sun’s visible light spectrum—the chromospheric calcium line—showed much stronger ultra-violet activity, than all the rest of the Sun’s spectrum.
“High-energy ultra-violet radiation strongly modulates the chemistry of Earth’s upper atmosphere, induces cloud formation, and is one of the many sources of climate change,” Denker added. “Clouds high in the Earth’s atmosphere effectively reflect sunlight and only a fraction of the Sun’s energy reaches the ground or contributes to warming the atmosphere. Establishing an accurate baseline of the Sun’s energy output is the first step in assessing the human contribution to global warming and climate change.”
Of course, for Naqvi, the even bigger news is that the amount of the scholarship, which is yet to be determined, may pay for as much as $7500 worth of his tuition during his junior and senior years at NJIT. And, even better, together with his mentor and observatory staff members, Naqvi is writing a scholarly paper which will feature him as the lead author, said Denker.
“This research exposed me to the research arena and I developed multiple scientific techniques, crucial in every scientific field,” said Naqvi. “This experience, along with the encouragement through the Goldwater Scholarship, an international conference in Portugal and the upcoming opportunity to publish a scientific paper in a physics journal, has motivated me to seek answers about different natural phenomena, which engulf our planet. These include stellar magnetic activity and the origin of galactic cosmic rays.”
The Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program was established by Congress in 1986 to honor Senator Barry M. Goldwater, who served his country for 56 years as a soldier and statesman, including 30 years of service in the U.S. Senate. The purpose of the Foundation is to provide a continuing source of highly qualified scientists, mathematicians, and engineers by awarding scholarships to college students who intend to pursue careers in these fields.