A NASA rocket fitted with latest camera technology is capable of capturing 1,500 images of the Sun in just five minutes will be launched today, Monday, October 3, 2014 at 2.07 pm (EST) from the White Sands Missile Range near Las Cruces, New Mexico.
The Rapid Acquisition Imaging Spectrograph Experiment (RAISE) mission of NASA will focus in on the split-second changes that occur near active regions on the Sun, especially those exploding magnetic fields erupting reddish and orange fires visible from the satellites.
These areas of Sun with intense and complex magnetic fields that can give birth to giant eruptions giving the RAISE cameras to capture Sun’s energy spewing particles in all directions, the US space agency NASA said in a statement.
“Even on a five-minute flight, there are niche areas of science we can focus on well. There are areas of the Sun that need to be examined with the high-cadence observations we can provide,” said Don Hassler, solar scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado.
RAISE will use a data product spectrogram which separates the light from the sun into different wavelengths. “The Sun has been extremely active recently, producing several X-class flares in the past few weeks. The team will aim their instrument at one of these active regions to try to understand better the dynamics that cause these regions to erupt,” Hassler explained.
Since the sun has been extremely active recently, producing several X-class flares in the past few weeks, the team hopes the instrument takes shots of one of these active regions to try to understand better the dynamics that cause these regions to erupt. The quick in succesion photos will show how heat and energy move through such active regions, which in turn helps scientist understand what creates the regions and perhaps even what catalyzes the sun’s eruptions.
Sounding rockets fly for just 15 minutes, usually providing five to six minutes of access to science that can only be accomplished from space. The extreme ultraviolet light that RAISE observes, for example, cannot pass through Earth’s atmosphere to reach ground telescopes. While the flight time is short, such missions provides a low-cost access to high-quality research.
In addition, the rockets provide a test bed for new technologies. The current RAISE payload includes a new diffraction grating – coated with a new material called boron carbide – which reflects light and separates it into its separate wavelengths.
“This is the second time we have flown the RAISE payload, and we keep improving it along the way,” said Hassler. “This is a technology that is maturing relatively quickly.”
An instrument capable of such high-cadence observation could make its way on to future, more permanent solar observatories. It is already serving as a development platform for instruments on the joint European Space Agency-NASA Solar Orbiter Mission, which is scheduled to launch in 2017 and to go to within 26 million miles of the sun. (Mercury’s closest approach to the sun is about 28.6 million miles.)
RAISE’s launch time will depend on good weather conditions as well as coordinated timing with other space observatories, such as NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory and Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph, as well as the joint Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency and NASA’s Hinode.
RAISE is supported through NASA’s Sounding Rocket Program at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. NASA’s Heliophysics Division manages the sounding rocket program.