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!
Exotic spiraling electrons discovered by physicists
19.02.2019 | Rutgers University
Astronomers publish new sky map detecting hundreds of thousands of previously unknown galaxies
19.02.2019 | Universität Bielefeld
Up to now, OLEDs have been used exclusively as a novel lighting technology for use in luminaires and lamps. However, flexible organic technology can offer much more: as an active lighting surface, it can be combined with a wide variety of materials, not just to modify but to revolutionize the functionality and design of countless existing products. To exemplify this, the Fraunhofer FEP together with the company EMDE development of light GmbH will be presenting hybrid flexible OLEDs integrated into textile designs within the EU-funded project PI-SCALE for the first time at LOPEC (March 19-21, 2019 in Munich, Germany) as examples of some of the many possible applications.
The Fraunhofer FEP, a provider of research and development services in the field of organic electronics, has long been involved in the development of...
For the first time, an international team of scientists based in Regensburg, Germany, has recorded the orbitals of single molecules in different charge states in a novel type of microscopy. The research findings are published under the title “Mapping orbital changes upon electron transfer with tunneling microscopy on insulators” in the prestigious journal “Nature”.
The building blocks of matter surrounding us are atoms and molecules. The properties of that matter, however, are often not set by these building blocks...
Scientists at the University of Konstanz identify fierce competition between the human immune system and bacterial pathogens
Cell biologists from the University of Konstanz shed light on a recent evolutionary process in the human immune system and publish their findings in the...
Laser physicists have taken snapshots of carbon molecules C₆₀ showing how they transform in intense infrared light
When carbon molecules C₆₀ are exposed to an intense infrared light, they change their ball-like structure to a more elongated version. This has now been...
The so-called Abelian sandpile model has been studied by scientists for more than 30 years to better understand a physical phenomenon called self-organized...
11.02.2019 | Event News
30.01.2019 | Event News
16.01.2019 | Event News
19.02.2019 | Information Technology
19.02.2019 | Health and Medicine
19.02.2019 | Trade Fair News