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.


 
 

 

Headlines April 20, 2015

News: Sale of U.S. arms fuels the wars of Arab states - As the Middle East descends into proxy wars, sectarian conflicts and battles against terrorist networks, countries in the region that have stockpiled American military hardware are now actually using it and wanting more. U.S. spending $1 billion to reassure European allies - From Army rotations...
 
 

News Briefs April 20, 2015

Last two Raiders give congressional medal to Ohio museum The last two ìDoolittle Tokyo Raidersî have presented their Congressional Gold Medal for permanent display at a museum in southwest Ohio. The medal arrived at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force near Dayton in a ceremonial B-25 bomber flight. The medal was awarded by...
 
 
Northrop Grumman photograph

Space Solar Power Initiative established by Northrop Grumman, Caltech

Northrop Grumman photograph Northrop Grumman’s Joseph Ensor (left) and Caltech’s Ares Rosakis (right) shake hands as part of the recent SSPI commemoration event held at the California Institute of Technology, Pasade...
 

 
Navy photograph

Triton UAS conducts first flight with search radar

Navy photograph The MQ-4C Triton unmanned aircraft takes off from Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., April 16, to conduct its first flight from the naval base. The aircraft began sensor testing on April 18 and flew with its...
 
 

UTC introduces active side-sticks to large commercial aviation

UTC Aerospace Systems is introducing the world’s first active side-stick controller for large commercial aircraft. UTC Aerospace Systems is a unit of United Technologies Corp. UTC Aerospace Systems’ Actuation & Propeller business unit is supplying the active side-sticks for the cockpit of the new Irkut MC-21 single aisle aircraft. The MC-21 family of aircraft will...
 
 

Boeing presents flight test 787 Dreamliner to air, space museum

Boeing, elected and community leaders joined together April 17 to celebrate the permanent display of one of the original 787-8 Dreamliner flight test airplanes at the Pima Air & Space Museum. “Boeing has a strong presence in Arizona and is proud to share this important achievement in aviation history with the community, our employees and...
 




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>