Earth-Sun Environment: NASA selects two missions to enhance understanding of solar atmosphere and space weather

With these missions, the space environment would be understood in a better manner.

nasa sun missions
As per NASA, these missions will provide key information that would help in protecting satellites, astronauts as well as GPS and other communication signals. (Image: NASA/SDO)

NASA missions: US space agency NASA has selected two missions in order to better understand the way the Sun works, the connection between the Sun and our planet as well as the space environment which is constantly changing. A statement in this regard had been issued by the space agency earlier on Friday. The two missions that have been selected for this purpose are the Multi-slit Solar Explorer or MUSE and the HelioSwarm. As per NASA, these missions will provide key information that would help in protecting satellites, astronauts as well as GPS and other communication signals.

In the statement, associate administrator for science at NASA Headquarters Thomas Zurbuchen said that with these missions, new and deeper insight into the space weather and solar atmosphere would be gathered.

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Understanding NASA’s MUSE Mission

With this mission, scientists are hoping to get more insights into what drives the heating of the corona of the Sun as well as the eruptions that take place in the outermost region of the star. These eruptions are the basis of space weather. MUSE, which will provide scientists with a deeper insight into the solar atmosphere’s physics, will make use of a multi-slit spectrometer. With this instrument, the extreme ultraviolet radiation of the Sun would be observed. Not only that, but the mission is also going to capture the corona of the Sun and the solar transition region in the highest resolution images captured till date.

Complementary observations from heliophysics research as well as observatories based on the ground would also be provided by the mission.

The main aim for MUSE is to look at what causes heating and instability in the corona, like mass ejections and flares. Apart from that, it would also look into basic coronal plasma properties.

NASA HelioSwarm Mission explained

The HelioSwarm mission would consist of nine spacecraft – constellation or “swarm”. The first multiscale in-space measurements of motions of the solar wind turbulence and magnetic field fluctuations would be captured with the help of this mission. A huge region of the solar system is encompassed by the heliosphere – the outermost atmospheric layer of the Sun, and it is the heliosphere that solar winds spread through. The interaction of solar winds with magnetospheres of planetary bodies as well as coronal mass ejection-like disruptions affect the turbulence of solar winds.

In order to effectively study the solar wind turbulence over large areas, plasma measurements need to be taken at the same time from different spatial points. Hence, the HelioSwarm mission, having a hub spacecraft along with eight small satellites co-orbiting, comes into play. The Hub spacecraft would maintain radio contact with each of the co-orbiting satellites, NASA said.

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First published on: 12-02-2022 at 19:13 IST