Space

July 23, 2012

NASA telescope captures sharpest images of sun’s corona

A telescope launched July 11 aboard a NASA sounding rocket has captured the highest-resolution images ever taken of the sun’s million-degree atmosphere called the corona.

The clarity of the images can help scientists better understand the behavior of the solar atmosphere and its impacts on Earth’s space environment.

“These revolutionary images of the sun demonstrate the key aspects of NASA’s sounding rocket program, namely the training of the next generation of principal investigators, the development of new space technologies, and scientific advancements,” said Barbara Giles, director for NASA’s Heliophysics Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

Launched from White Sands Missile Range, N.M., the 58-foot-tall sounding rocket carried NASA’s High Resolution Coronal Imager telescope. Weighing 464 pounds, the 10-foot-long payload took 165 images during its brief 620-second flight. The telescope focused on a large active region on the sun with some images revealing the dynamic structure of the solar atmosphere in fine detail. These images were taken in the extreme ultraviolet wavelength. This higher energy wavelength of light is optimal for viewing the hot solar corona.

“We have an exceptional instrument and launched at the right time,” said Jonathan Cirtain, senior heliophysicist at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. “Because of the intense solar activity we’re seeing right now, we were able to clearly focus on a sizeable, active sunspot and achieve our imaging goals.”

The telescope acquired data at a rate of roughly one image every 5 seconds. Its resolution is approximately five times more detailed than the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly instrument flying aboard NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory. For comparison, AIA can see structures on the sun’s surface with the clarity of approximately 675 miles and observes the sun in 10 wavelengths of light. Hi-C can resolve features down to roughly 135 miles, but observed the sun in just one wavelength of light.

The high-resolution images were made possible because of a set of innovations on Hi-C’s optics array. Hi-C’s mirrors are approximately 9 1/2 inches across, roughly the same size as the SDO instrument’s. The telescope includes some of the finest mirrors ever made for space-based instrumentation. The increase in resolution of the images captured by Hi-C is similar to making the transition in television viewing from a cathode ray tube TV to high definition TV.

Initially developed at Marshall, the final mirror configuration was completed with inputs from partners at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Mass., and a new manufacturing technique developed in coordination with L-3Com/Tinsley Laboratories of Richmond, Calif.

The high-quality optics were aligned to determine the spacing between the optics and the tilt of the mirror with extreme accuracy. Scientists and engineers from Marshall, SAO, and the University of Alabama in Huntsville worked to complete alignment of the mirrors, maintaining optic spacing to within a few ten-thousandths of an inch.

NASA’s suborbital sounding rockets provide low-cost means to conduct space science and studies of Earth’s upper atmosphere. In addition, they have proven to be a valuable test bed for new technologies for future satellites or probes to other planets.

Launched in February 2010, SDO is an advanced spacecraft studying the sun and its dynamic behavior. The spacecraft provides images with clarity 10 times better than high definition television and provides more comprehensive science data faster than any solar observing spacecraft in history.

Partners associated with the development of the Hi-C telescope also include Lockheed Martin’s Solar Astrophysical Laboratory in Palo Alto, Calif.; the University of Central Lancashire in Lancashire, England; and the Lebedev Physical Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow.




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 

NASA awards research facilities, engineering support services contract

NASA has awarded a contract for research facilities and engineering support services to InuTeq, LLC of Greenbelt, Maryland, in support of the Mission Information and Test Systems Directorate at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif. This cost-plus-award-fee contract covers a one-year base period beginning Nov. 1, 2014 and four one-year options, and is valued...
 
 

NASA awards contract option on test, operations support contract

NASA has exercised the first option to extend the period of performance of its Test and Operations Support Contract with Jacobs Technology Inc. of Tullahoma, Tenn., to Sept. 30, 2016. Jacobs Technology Inc. will provide continued overall management and implementation of ground systems capabilities, flight hardware processing and launch operations in support of the International...
 
 

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft crosses Neptune orbit

NASA’s Pluto-bound New Horizons spacecraft has traversed the orbit of Neptune. This is its last major crossing en route to becoming the first probe to make a close encounter with distant Pluto on July 14, 2015. The sophisticated piano-sized spacecraft, which launched in January 2006, reached Neptune’s orbit – nearly 2.75 billion miles from Earth...
 

 

NASA awards program analysis, Control Bridge III Contract

NASA has awarded the Program Analysis and Control III Bridge contract for support services to ASRC Research & Technology Solutions of Beltsville, Md. The cost-plus-fixed-fee, indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity basic contract has a minimum ordering value of $1 million and a maximum ordering value of $37 million, with a performance period beginning Aug. 30 through Feb....
 
 

NASA selects 26 space biology research proposals

NASA’s Space Biology Program will fund 26 proposals to investigate how microbes, cells, plants and animals respond to changes in gravity. The research will be conducted aboard the International Space Station. The research will help uncover new basic knowledge that other NASA researchers and engineers can use to solve problems confronting human exploration of space...
 
 
NASA image

Ozone-depleting compound persists, NASA research shows

NASA image Satellites observed the largest ozone hole over Antarctica in 2006. Purple and blue represent areas of low ozone concentrations in the atmosphere; yellow and red are areas of higher concentrations. NASA research show...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>