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NASA announces a new mission to study solar particle storms with satellites the size of toaster ovens

NASA announces new mission to study solar particle storms, with six small satellites the size of toaster ovens that will orbit Earth and measure radiation from the sun

  • NASA has announced a new project to study dangerous solar particle storms
  • The project will start no earlier than July 1, 2023 at a cost of $ 62.6 million
  • It will use satellites in orbit around the Earth to measure and model solar radiation when and where dangerous solar bursts will occur

NASA has announced a new fact-finding mission that will send a group of small satellites into space to study the mysterious phenomenon of solar particle storms.

Called Sun Radio Interferometer Space Experiment (SunRISE), the mission will cost $ 62.6 million and is expected to launch no earlier than July 1, 2023.

The mission is organized by Justin Kasper of the University of Michigan and supervised by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

NASA has announced a new fact-finding mission to study solar particle storms caused by large eruptions on the sun's surface sending proton currents into space

NASA has announced a new fact-finding mission to study solar particle storms caused by large eruptions on the sun’s surface sending proton currents into space

“The more we know about how the sun erupts in space weather events, the more we can mitigate its effects on spacecraft and astronauts,” NASA’s Nicky Fox said in a prepared statement.

The mission will use a constellation of six solar-powered toaster-sized satellites called CubeSats to collect data on low-frequency emissions from the sun.

The six satellites will fly in a fixed formation, each six miles apart, orbiting the Earth.

They measure radiation particles from the sun that would otherwise be filtered out by the Earth’s atmosphere.

Researchers will use differences in the flow of those radiation particles to create 3D models of the bursts on the surface of the sun they produce.

The models will be used to try to make better predictions about when solar particle storms may occur.

Solar particle storms occur when large proton currents are ejected from the surface of the sun, which have enough energy to penetrate the Earth’s magnetosphere.

The project will use six toaster-sized satellites called CubeSats to orbit Earth and measure solar radiation that would otherwise be filtered out by the atmosphere. The team will use that radiation data to model how and when large eruptions that cause storms occur

The project will use six toaster-sized satellites called CubeSats to orbit the Earth and measure solar radiation that would otherwise be filtered out by the atmosphere. The team will use that radiation data to model how and when large eruptions that cause storms occur

The project will use six toaster-sized satellites called CubeSats to orbit the Earth and measure solar radiation that would otherwise be filtered out by the atmosphere. The team will use that radiation data to model how and when large eruptions that cause storms occur

In severe cases, these solar particle storms can cause geomagnetic storms on Earth and can break down electrical grids and interfere with some electronic devices.

And it’s not just dangers on Earth. Solar radiation storms can also disrupt space stations and spacecraft.

They can also have a range of harmful effects on astronauts that are not properly shielded, including nausea, vomiting and dangerous changes in blood chemistry.

The SunRISE project is part of NASA’s Missions of Opportunity program, which assesses pitches from researchers who demand space in upcoming rocket launches.

WHAT ARE SOLAR STORMS AND ARE DANGEROUS?

Solar stormswhether solar activity can be divided into four main components which can have consequences on earth:

  • Solar flares: A large explosion in the sun’s atmosphere. These torches are made from photons that travel directly from the flare site. Solar flares only affect the Earth if they occur on the side of the Sun that faces Earth.
  • Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs): Large clouds of plasma and magnetic field emanating from the sun. These clouds can erupt in any direction and then continue in that direction, plowing through solar wind. These clouds only have an impact on the Earth if they are aimed at the Earth.
  • High speed solar wind currents: These come from coronal holes in the sun, which form all over the sun and usually only when closer to the solar equator do the winds affect the Earth.
  • Solar energy particles: High-energy charged particles thought to be released primarily from front shock from coronal mass ejections and solar flares. When a CME cloud plows through solar wind, solar energetic particles can be produced and because they are charged they follow the magnetic field lines between the sun and the Earth. Only charged particles that follow magnetic field lines that intersect the Earth have an impact.

Although these appear dangerous, astronauts are not directly endangered by these phenomena due to the relatively low trajectory of manned missions.

However, they should be concerned about the cumulative exposure during spacewalks.

This photo shows the sun's coronal holes in an X-ray. The outer atmosphere of the Sun, the corona, is structured by strong magnetic fields, which when closed can cause the atmosphere to suddenly and violently release gas bubbles and magnetic fields called coronal mass ejections.

This photo shows the sun's coronal holes in an X-ray. The outer atmosphere of the sun, the corona, is structured by strong magnetic fields, which when closed can cause the atmosphere to suddenly and violently release gas bubbles and magnetic fields called coronal mass ejections

This photo shows the sun’s coronal holes in an X-ray. The outer atmosphere of the sun, the corona, is structured by strong magnetic fields, which when closed can cause the atmosphere to suddenly and violently release bubbles or tongues of gas and magnetic fields called coronal mass ejections.

The damage caused by solar storms

Solar flares can damage satellites and have huge financial costs.

The charged particles can also threaten airlines by disrupting the Earth’s magnetic field.

Very large torches can even cause currents in electricity grids and cut off the energy supply.

When Coronal Mass Ejections hit Earth, they cause geomagnetic storms and enhanced aurora.

They can interfere with radio waves, GPS coordinates and overload electrical systems.

A large influx of energy can currents in high voltage networks and permanently damage transformers.

This could shut down businesses and homes around the world.

Source: NASA – Solar Storm and Space Weather

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