The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory's unique expertise in sun-viewing telescopes will be an integral part of the historic NASA Parker Solar Probe mission scheduled to launch Aug. 11 to better understand how the Sun affects our solar system.
The mission to "touch the Sun" is 60 years in the making and will bring a spacecraft carrying a suite of instruments the closest ever before to the Sun with NRL's Space Science Division's coronagraph telescopes called the Wide-Field Imager for Solar Probe, or WISPR, being the only imager.
WISPR is built with telescopes that create a solar eclipse type image by blocking the actual sun so its atmosphere, or corona, can be captured. These images show the Sun's emissions, including streamers, plumes, and the energetic coronal mass ejections that burst from the star.
According to Dr. Russell Howard, the NRL WISPR principal investigator, and a leading world authority on coronagraph telescopes, it's not just the pictures that are important - it's where that energy goes.
Understanding how the Sun's atmosphere then flows through the solar system, called space weather, is extremely important because it can have dramatic effects on communications, power and other essential technologies that the U.S. Navy fleet relies on, said Howard.
"What this mission is going to be able do is pin down exactly what the structure close to the sun is -- the overall structure. We'll be able to image that," said Howard. "But also, there's an experiment that will measure the strength of the magnetic fields, the electric fields - the structure of the plasma we're running through."
This imaging capability is building on 40 years of NASA mission success with NRL's coronagraph telescopes, starting with the seventh of NASA's Orbiting Solar Observatories launched in September 1971.
Since then, NRL telescopes have captured extraordinary images of the Sun's atmosphere, including two of the most recent missions: The European Space Agency/NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) mission  in 1995 and the NASA STEREO mission launched in 2006.
For Howard, who has personally worked on nearly all NRL coronagraph telescope launches, the Parker Solar Probe will be a culmination of decades of work. While the previous NRL telescopes are on spacecraft either on lower Earth orbit or just outside of Earth's orbit, they are still getting fuzzy views of the Sun.
With the closeness of the Parker Solar Probe to the Sun, WISPR will be capturing images with clarity like never before, he said, because those images actually pick up nearly at the same point where the other telescopes loose resolution.
"What we're going to achieve is just absolutely amazing. Stay tuned - we're going to see stuff that we just never would have imagined, I'm sure," said Howard.
The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory provides the advanced scientific capabilities required to bolster our country's position of global naval leadership. With more than 2,500 personnel scientists, engineers and support staff, it has served the U.S. Navy and the nation for nearly 100 years, advancing research further than you can imagine. For more information, visit the NRL website or join the conversation on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.
Sarah Maxwell | EurekAlert!
Non-volatile control of magnetic anisotropy through change of electric polarization
12.11.2019 | Kanazawa University
Thorium superconductivity: Scientists discover new high-temperature superconductor
11.11.2019 | Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology
Quantum-based communication and computation technologies promise unprecedented applications, such as unconditionally secure communications, ultra-precise...
In two experiments performed at the free-electron laser FLASH in Hamburg a cooperation led by physicists from the Heidelberg Max Planck Institute for Nuclear physics (MPIK) demonstrated strongly-driven nonlinear interaction of ultrashort extreme-ultraviolet (XUV) laser pulses with atoms and ions. The powerful excitation of an electron pair in helium was found to compete with the ultrafast decay, which temporarily may even lead to population inversion. Resonant transitions in doubly charged neon ions were shifted in energy, and observed by XUV-XUV pump-probe transient absorption spectroscopy.
An international team led by physicists from the MPIK reports on new results for efficient two-electron excitations in helium driven by strong and ultrashort...
An international research group has observed new quantum properties on an artificial giant atom and has now published its results in the high-ranking journal Nature Physics. The quantum system under investigation apparently has a memory - a new finding that could be used to build a quantum computer.
The research group, consisting of German, Swedish and Indian scientists, has investigated an artificial quantum system and found new properties.
Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory have reported a new mechanism to speed up the charging of lithium-ion...
Northwestern University chemists have used visible light and extremely tiny nanoparticles to quickly and simply make molecules that are of the same class as...
05.11.2019 | Event News
30.10.2019 | Event News
02.10.2019 | Event News
11.11.2019 | Life Sciences
11.11.2019 | Health and Medicine
11.11.2019 | Trade Fair News