Solar Missions: NASA approves 2 new missions to explore system between Sun and Earth; details

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December 30, 2020 3:02 PM

At present, space agencies are studying the physics that drives solar wind as well as solar explosions.

Nasa solar missionsThese missions, NASA said, would aid in understanding the inter-connected system of the Sun and the Earth. (Image: NASA)

NASA Sun missions: The US space agency National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has announced that it has given approval to two Sun exploration heliophysics missions. Heliophysics missions study the Sun and relate them to the events taking place in the solar system. Consequently, the two heliophysics missions would also explore the system driving the near-Earth space weather. Of the two missions, NASA would be leading the Electrojet Zeeman Imaging Explorer or EZIE mission, while it would contribute to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)-led Extreme Ultraviolet High-Throughput Spectroscopic Telescope Epsilon Mission (EUVST) mission. These missions, NASA said, would aid in understanding the inter-connected system of the Sun and the Earth.

At present, space agencies are studying the physics that is driving solar wind as well as solar explosions, which would include events like solar flares as well as coronal mass ejections. This could eventually help scientists predict when such events would occur, impacting human explorers as well as technology in space.

Also read | Mars mission: NASA, ESA move to next phase of mission to collect sample from Red Planet’s surface

JAXA’s Solar-C EUVST Mission

A solar telescope, the EUVST would be studying the solar wind released by the solar atmosphere, as well as studying how this atmosphere drives solar material eruption. Studying them is important because they impact the space radiation environment throughout the solar system, NASA said. So far, the mission is aimed to be launched in 2026. As far as NASA’s contribution to the mission is concerned, the US space agency would be providing support like the software, a guide telescope, a slit-jaw imaging system that would give context for spectrographic measurement, a UV detector along with support electronics as well as spectrograph components. For NASA, the budget for this mission is $55 million, the agency said.

NASA’s EZEI mission

Meanwhile, the EZEI mission controlled by NASA would study the atmosphere of the Earth and the electric currents in it, which link the aurora to the magnetosphere. The magnetosphere is a complex space weather system that responds to several factors, including solar activity. The levels of geomagnetic activity are commonly measured by the Auroral Electrojet (AE) index, even as scientists do not currently understand the details regarding the currents’ structure.

NASA has slated the mission for launch in June 2024 at the earliest, with a total budget of $53.3 million.

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