Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

NASA's first wide-field soft X-ray camera is a gift that keeps giving

09.03.2016

NASA's first wide-field soft X-ray camera, which incorporated a never-before-flown focusing technology when it debuted in late 2012, is a gift that keeps giving.

NASA recently selected a miniaturized version of the original X-ray camera to fly as a CubeSat mission to study Earth's magnetic cusps - regions in the magnetic cocoon around our planet near the poles where the magnetic field lines dip down toward the ground.


The miniaturized CubeSat payload called both CuPID and WASP returned data about a physical phenomenon called charge exchange.

Credits: NASA

The CubeSat will observe the cusps via soft X-rays emitted when the million-mile-an-hour flow of solar particles constantly streaming from the sun, called the solar wind, collides with and exchanges charges with atoms in the uppermost region of Earth's atmosphere and neutral gases in interplanetary space.

The bread loaf-size instrument is the latest incarnation of the Sheath Transport Observer for the Redistribution of Mass, or STORM. Funded by NASA's Heliophysics Technology and Instrument Development for Science, or H-TIDeS program, this new version of the instrument is being developed as WASP/CuPID, short for Wide Angle Soft x-ray Planetary camera and the Cusp Plasma Imaging Detector. The mission is expected to launch in 2019.

STORM Evolves into CuPID/WASP

Three years ago, a team of three NASA scientists at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, demonstrated STORM aboard a Black Brant IX sounding rocket to prove that their concept for studying charge exchange would work. The charge-exchange process happens when the heavy ions in the solar wind steal an electron from the neutrals -- an exchange that puts the heavy ions in a short-lived excited state. As they relax, they emit soft X-rays.

The neutrals from which the heavy ions stole the electron are now charged themselves. This allows them to be picked up by the solar wind and carried away. This is one way planets like Mars could lose their atmosphere.

So valuable was the resulting data that the three scientists decided to miniaturize STORM and compete for a CubeSat flight opportunity. Now about half the size of STORM, CuPID/WASP was demonstrated aboard a Black Brant IX sounding rocket in December 2015 and will be further refined under the H-TIDeS funding. Ultimately, it will carry its own avionics system.

"Actually, it was quite a coup," said Michael Collier, a planetary scientist who worked with heliophysicist David Sibeck and astrophysicist Scott Porter to develop all instrument versions. "This imager has applications across many different fields and platforms. We figured we could miniaturize it and put it on a CubeSat and still get good science."

Boston University professor Brian Walsh, a former Goddard post-doctorate student, is serving as the mission's principal investigator.

Three Scientific Disciplines Benefit

Like its predecessor, CuPID/WASP employs what's known as a lobster-eye optic, a thick curved slab of material dotted with tiny tubes across the surface. X-ray light enters these tubes from multiple angles and is focused through reflection, giving the technology a wide field of view necessary for globally imaging the emission of soft X-rays.

Because the instrument is considerably smaller than STORM, its collecting area isn't quite as good. However, the data is just as valuable to scientists, Porter said.

Since its discovery in the mid-1990s, scientists have observed the emission of charge-exchange X-rays from planets, the moon, comets, interplanetary space, possible supernova remnants, and galactic halos.

Planetary scientists have observed these emissions from the outer atmospheres of Venus and Mars, leading some to question whether the charge-exchange phenomenon contributes to the atmospheric loss on Mars. Heliophysicists studying how near-Earth space is affected by radiation and magnetic energy from the sun also have observed soft X-rays from the outer boundaries of Earth's magnetosphere, the magnetic bubble that shields Earth from hazardous solar storms. And astrophysicists have observed them, too -- as unwanted noise in data collected by all X-ray observatories sensitive to soft X-rays.

As a result, planetary scientists and heliophysicists want to measure these emissions for scientific reasons, while astrophysicists want to remove them as noise.

Since the instrument's debut in 2012 and subsequent miniaturization as a CubeSat payload, a European-led team has begun considering developing a STORM-like instrument for its proposed Solar Wind Magnetosphere Ionosphere Link Explorer (SMILE).

"Everyone is interested in getting this data, although for different reasons," Collier added. "These missions span three different disciplines, which is a rare occurrence in space science."

###

For more Goddard technology news, go to https://gsfctechnology.gsfc.nasa.gov/newsletter/Current.pdf

Lori Keesey | EurekAlert!

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Study offers new theoretical approach to describing non-equilibrium phase transitions
27.04.2017 | DOE/Argonne National Laboratory

nachricht SwRI-led team discovers lull in Mars' giant impact history
26.04.2017 | Southwest Research Institute

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Fighting drug resistant tuberculosis – InfectoGnostics meets MYCO-NET² partners in Peru

28.04.2017 | Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Wireless power can drive tiny electronic devices in the GI tract

28.04.2017 | Medical Engineering

Ice cave in Transylvania yields window into region's past

28.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

Nose2Brain – Better Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis

28.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>