NASA to explore potential missions to study Sun dynamics

Hemani Sheth Mumbai | Updated on August 31, 2020

Aims to obtain information to help protect astronauts, satellites, communications signals in space

NASA has selected five proposals for concept studies of missions to understand the dynamics of the Sun and the space environment with which it interacts with Earth.

“The information will improve understanding about the universe as well as offer key information to help protect astronauts, satellites, and communications signals — such as GPS — in space,” NASA said in an official statement.

These proposals will get $1.25 million each to conduct concept studies in a nine-month timeframe. The US space agency will pick two proposals and take them forward with a separate launch opportunity and timeframe.

“We constantly seek missions that use cutting edge technology and novel approaches to push the boundaries of science,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “Each one of these proposals offers the chance to observe something we have never before seen or to provide unprecedented insights into key areas of research, all to further the exploration of the universe we live in.”

This will further aid NASA's heliophysics programme, which explores the Sun. It studies the interconnected system of energy, particles, and magnetic fields that takes up the interplanetary space. This system is continuously changing based on the outflow from the Sun and its interaction with the space and atmosphere around Earth, NASA said.

“Whether it's looking at the physics of our star, studying aurora, or observing how magnetic fields move through space, the heliophysics community seeks to explore the space system around us from a variety of vantage points," said Nicky Fox, director of the Heliophysics Division in NASA's Science Mission Directorate. "We carefully pick missions to provide perfectly placed sensors throughout the solar system, each offering a key perspective to understand the space that human technology and humans increasingly travel through."

The proposals selected for concept studies include Solar-Terrestrial Observer for the Response of the Magnetosphere (STORM), HelioSwarm: The Nature of Turbulence in Space Plasmas, Multi-slit Solar Explorer (MUSE), Auroral Reconstruction CubeSwarm (ARCS) and Solaris: Revealing the Mysteries of the Sun’s Poles.

Published on August 31, 2020

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