NASA announces two new missions to study the sun


The sun affects the space environment much more than just a source of heat and light. It also emits radiation and charged particles that interact with Earth’s magnetic fields in a complex phenomenon called space weather. This can affect both the health of astronauts traveling beyond the protection of Earth’s magnetosphere and electronics like satellites in high orbit. To learn more about the sun and its impact on the space environment, NASA recently announced two new space missions: The Multi-slit Solar Explorer (MUSE) and HelioSwarm.

“MUSE and HelioSwarm will provide new and deeper insight into the solar atmosphere and space weather,” Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA associate administrator for science, said in a statement. declaration. “These missions not only extend the science of our other heliophysical missions, but they also offer a unique perspective and a new approach to understanding the mysteries of our star.”

A mid-level solar flare that peaked at 8:13 p.m. EDT on October 1, 2015, captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory. NASA/ODS

MUSE will be a spacecraft orbiting Earth armed with two instruments that look into the extreme ultraviolet (EUV) wavelength – an EUV spectrograph and an EUV contextual imager. In particular, he will look at the solar corona, looking at how the corona is heated and the bursts of energy such as flares or coronal mass ejections that cause space weather.

“MUSE will help us fill critical gaps in knowledge about the Sun-Earth connection,” said Nicola Fox, director of the Heliophysics Division at NASA Headquarters. “It will provide more space weather information and complement a host of other missions within the Heliophysical Mission Fleet.”

The other mission, HelioSwarm, will consist of a constellation of nine spacecraft that will work together to measure changes in the sun’s magnetic field and solar winds. These winds pass through the outer layer of the sun’s atmosphere, called the heliosphere, which extends all the way around the sun and beyond the planets of the solar system.

“The technical innovation of HelioSwarm’s small satellites working together as a constellation provides the unique ability to study turbulence and its evolution in the solar wind,” said Peg Luce, Deputy Director of the Heliophysics Division.

NASA has yet to announce when either mission is expected to launch.

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