Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Team Makes NASA’s Hi-C Flight a Success

28.01.2013
Work done in part by The University of Alabama has enabled a group of solar scientists to see into the sun’s corona in unprecedented detail.

Scientists and engineers from the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO), Marshall Space Flight Center and UAHuntsville teamed to align mirrors on the High Resolution Coronal Imager, or Hi-C.

Following that work, the imager captured the highest-resolution images ever taken of the million-degree solar corona, using a resolution five times greater than previous imagers. Hotter than the solar surface, the corona is where solar flares occur and release energy that drives solar storms that can impact Earth.

The imager’s high-quality optics were aligned with extreme accuracy. Mounting of the mirrors in the telescope was done using a new method that significantly reduced the impact of the process on the shape of the mirrors.

Weighing 464 pounds, the 6-foot-long Hi-C telescope took 165 images during a brief 620-second sounding rocket flight July 11. The telescope focused on a large active region on the sun. Some images reveal the dynamic structure of the solar atmosphere in fine detail. When combined with the full sun images from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), they provide a new picture of the solar corona.

The mirror alignment work involved maintaining optic spacing to within a few ten-thousandths of an inch. This innovative approach to aligning and installing the mirrors then had to be maintained so the instrument could survive the harsh vibration and thermal conditions during launch and flight of the rocket.

Hi-C's mirrors are approximately 9.5 inches across, roughly the same size as the SDO instrument’s mirrors. However, due to a set of innovations on Hi-C’s optics array, the nimble telescope was able to peer deeper into the sun’s corona in the extreme ultraviolet wavelength.

“These mirrors were to be the finest pieces of glass ever fabricated for solar astrophysics,” said Marshall heliophysicist Dr. Jonathan Cirtain, principal investigator on the Hi-C mission. “We had never attempted such a program before and had to develop new techniques for grinding the optics and polishing the surfaces, not to mention figuring out how to mount them without diminishing the performance. The final mirror surface is so smooth that it only deviates from being perfectly smooth by a few angstroms over the 24 cm optic.”

Using these quality optics, images were acquired at a rate of approximately one every five seconds and provided proof of a long-standing theory to explain solar coronal dynamics.

The optical design was provided by scientists and engineers from Marshall’s Science and Technology Office as well as SAO personnel. “Dr. Cirtain asked us to develop the mirrors initially to see how well we could make them,” said John Calhoun, Lead for Optics at Marshall. “The initial specifications were only a goal; however, we made such excellent progress on them that Dr. Cirtain was able to get the funding for his flight demonstration. Credit belongs to the superb work performed by our senior opticians, although their initial response to the very challenging fabrication was to refer to the optics as the ‘oh, my god’ mirrors.”

Scientists at Lededev Physical Institute in Moscow, Russia developed the filters for the instrument front aperture plate. These whisper-thin filters reject the unwanted wavelengths of light and only transmit the extreme ultraviolet spectrum.

Scientists have worked for the better part of a decade designing and building test facilities, followed by development, fabrication and testing of the optics.

"This flight represents the culmination of thirty-years of effort to develop these exceptionally high quality optics," said Co-investigator Dr. Leon Golub of SAO.

Marshall scientists and engineers also partnered with engineers from the University of Central Lancashire and Apogee Imaging Systems in Richmond, CA to develop a large format camera detector (16 megapixel) with a high speed image readout. The combination of the optics, the telescope and the camera system combined to deliver the highest cadence and highest resolution image set yet collected for the solar million degree atmosphere.

“As for the findings from Hi-C, the most important implication to me is the realization that at 150 km spatial resolution and an image cadence of 5 seconds, solar astrophysics can make multiple major advances in the science of how stars work and evolve,” said Cirtain. “That, I find, is breathtaking, especially for a sounding rocket to discover.”

Partners associated with the development of the Hi-C telescope also include Lockheed Martin's Solar Astrophysical Laboratory in Palo Alto, Calif.; the University of Central Lancashire in Lancashire, England; the Lebedev Physical Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow; and the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo.

The research is being published in the journal Nature in a paper co-authored by Cirtain, Golub, A. Winebarger (Marshall), B. De Pontieu (Lockheed Martin), K. Kobayashi (The University of Alabama in Huntsville), R. Moore (Marshall), R. Walsh (University of Central Lancashire), K. Korreck, M. Weber and P. McCauley (CfA), A. Title (Lockheed Martin), S. Kuzin (Lebedev Physical Institute), and C. DeForest (Southwest Research Institute).

Jim Seele | Newswise
Further information:
http://www.uah.edu

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Winds a quarter the speed of light spotted leaving mysterious binary systems
29.04.2016 | University of Cambridge

nachricht Possible Extragalactic Source of High-Energy Neutrinos
28.04.2016 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

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: Tiny microbots that can clean up water

Researchers from the Max Planck Institute Stuttgart have developed self-propelled tiny ‘microbots’ that can remove lead or organic pollution from contaminated water.

Working with colleagues in Barcelona and Singapore, Samuel Sánchez’s group used graphene oxide to make their microscale motors, which are able to adsorb lead...

Im Focus: ORNL researchers discover new state of water molecule

Neutron scattering and computational modeling have revealed unique and unexpected behavior of water molecules under extreme confinement that is unmatched by any known gas, liquid or solid states.

In a paper published in Physical Review Letters, researchers at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory describe a new tunneling state of...

Im Focus: Bionic Lightweight Design researchers of the Alfred Wegener Institute at Hannover Messe 2016

Honeycomb structures as the basic building block for industrial applications presented using holo pyramid

Researchers of the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI) will introduce their latest developments in the field of bionic lightweight design at Hannover Messe from 25...

Im Focus: New world record for fullerene-free polymer solar cells

Polymer solar cells can be even cheaper and more reliable thanks to a breakthrough by scientists at Linköping University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). This work is about avoiding costly and unstable fullerenes.

Polymer solar cells can be even cheaper and more reliable thanks to a breakthrough by scientists at Linköping University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin glass is up and coming

As one of the leading R&D partners in the development of surface technologies and organic electronics, the Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP will be exhibiting its recent achievements in vacuum coating of ultra-thin glass at SVC TechCon 2016 (Booth 846), taking place in Indianapolis / USA from May 9 – 13.

Fraunhofer FEP is an experienced partner for technological developments, known for testing the limits of new materials and for optimization of those materials...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

The “AC21 International Forum 2016” is About to Begin

27.04.2016 | Event News

Soft switching combines efficiency and improved electro-magnetic compatibility

15.04.2016 | Event News

Grid-Supportive Buildings Give Boost to Renewable Energy Integration

12.04.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Winds a quarter the speed of light spotted leaving mysterious binary systems

29.04.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

Fiber optic biosensor-integrated microfluidic chip to detect glucose levels

29.04.2016 | Health and Medicine

A cell senses its own curves: New research from the MBL Whitman Center

29.04.2016 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>