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Weekly Current Affairs: April week-1- NASA’s SunRISE mission

  • Category
    Science & Technology
  • Published
    9th Apr, 2020

NASA has announced new SunRISE mission to study giant solar particle storms.

Context

NASA has announced new SunRISE mission to study giant solar particle storms.

About

  • The Sun Radio Interferometer Space Experiment (SunRISE) will look into how Sun generates and releases the giant weather storms, known as the solar particle storms, into space.
  • The SunRISE mission is to understand how such storms affect interplanetary space can help protect spacecraft and astronauts.
  • NASA designed it to learn more about how the sun generates and throws off giant space weather storms, known as solar particle storms.
  • SunRISE will gather information on how the solar system works. Knowing this could help NASA protect astronauts traveling to the Moon and Mars.

 What are Solar Energetic Particles (SEPs)? 

  • Solar energetic particles (SEPs) emitted from the Sun are a major space weather hazard motivating the development of predictive capabilities. 
  • These events occur when particles (mostly protons) emitted by the Sun become accelerated either close to the Sun during a flare or in interplanetary space by coronal mass ejection shocks.

The mission layout:

  • The mission layout depends on 6 solar-powered CubeSats– each regarding the size of a toaster oven– to concurrently observe radio photos of low-frequency emission from solar task and share them using NASA’s Deep Space Network.
  • SunRISE contains six CubeSats which will work together as a large radio telescope. Each of the CubeSats would run on solar power and would be of the size of a toaster oven.
    • The CubeSats will create 3D maps that pinpoint where giant particle bursts originate on the sun and how they evolve as they expand into space.
    • This, in turn, will help determine what initiates and accelerates these giant radiation jets of radiation.
    • The spacecraft will also work together to map the magnetic field lines reaching from the sun out into interplanetary space.
  • Together, these will observe radio images of low-frequency emission from solar activity and create 3D maps to locate the origin place of a solar particle storm on the Sun. The entire procedure of the storm evolution as it moves outward into the space will be studied too.
  • This, consequently, will aid determine what initiates as well as increases these giant jets of radiation.
  • The six individual spacecraft will also interact to map, for the very first time, the pattern of magnetic field lines reaching from the Sunlight out right into interplanetary space.

Background:

  • NASA had in August 2017 shortlisted SunRISE, along with another Mission of Opportunity proposal, for an 11-month mission concept study. Following the study in 2019, the space agency approved an additional formulation study for another year.
  • Missions of Opportunity are part of NASA’s oldest continuous program called the Explorers Program.
  • These aim at providing low-cost, efficient and frequent access to space for various missions. 

Significance of the mission:

  • The mission will help in greater understanding of the solar system. The findings would safeguard astronauts from solar storms while they travel to Mars or the Moon.
  • Furthermore, it will help scientists understand the complex relationship between the sun's activity and a host of dangerous phenomena around Earth called space weather.
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