NASA Launches Solar X-ray Imager to Detect Solar Corona
Why the Sun’s corona is so hot will be found out (pic-istock)
Washington : NASA scientists have successfully launched a sophisticated X-ray Solar Imager aboard a sounding rocket on sub-orbital flight. Efforts are on to gather information about how and why the Sun’s corona is so hot compared to the actual surface of Earth’s parent star. Developers at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, call the mission MAGIX — the Marshall Grazing Incidence X-ray Spectrometer. It was launched at 2.20 pm from White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.
The MAGIX mission sent its payload, which includes a large powered camera, telescope and X-ray spectrometer. “Our knowledge of the corona’s heating system is limited, partly because we have not yet been able to make detailed observations and measurements of the temperature distribution of the solar plasma in this region,” said Marshal heliophysicist Amy Weinberger, principal investigator for Magix. The Sun’s surface temperature exceeds 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit, but the corona regularly measures over 1.8 million degrees Fahrenheit.
Magix will be the first imager to measure specific temperature distributions in different parts of an active solar region. That accurate data will help scientists settle the debate about how and how often the corona will superheat. Shedding new light on coronal heating mechanisms could help researchers better understand and even predict potential solar flares and coronal mass ejections, both of which occur most frequently in relation to regional spikes in coronal heating.
The Magix sounding rocket mission serves as a testbed for instrumentation for future NASA missions to study solar flares in greater detail. NASA regularly uses sounding rockets for such brief, focused science missions. Weinberger said they are often smaller, more economical and quicker to design and build than large-scale satellite missions. They offer unique, suborbital science opportunities, the opportunity to develop new tools, and a rapid return on investment, he said.
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