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 Tracing aromatic molecules in the early universe
23.03.2017 | University of California - Riverside

nachricht New study maps space dust in 3-D
23.03.2017 | DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

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: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

Im Focus: Researchers Imitate Molecular Crowding in Cells

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Steep rise of the Bernese Alps

24.03.2017 | Earth Sciences

How cheetahs stay fit and healthy

24.03.2017 | Life Sciences

When Air is in Short Supply - Shedding light on plant stress reactions when oxygen runs short

23.03.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>