KEY POINTS

  • NASA has unveiled a new mission that will study solar emissions
  • The new mission will keep track of solar outbursts from the Sun
  • Information from the mission ca help protect astronauts from radiation

NASA has introduced a new mission that will study how the Sun generates massive solar storms. Aside from understanding how solar emissions work, the mission also aims to provide new information that can protect astronauts from cosmic radiation emitted by the Sun.

The new mission is known as the Sun Radio Interferometer Space Experiment (SunRISE). It will be designed as a spacecraft operating as a radio telescope. NASA plans to launch the new mission sometime in 2023.

SunRISE was selected from various mission proposals submitted in 2017. Although the mission will be managed by NASA, it will be led by climate and space sciences professor Justin Kasper of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

According to NASA, SunRISE will focus on understanding the solar emissions produced by the Sun and how they affect the planets within the Solar System. Through the data that will be collected by the mission, the agency aims to implement better protective measures to safeguard astronauts in future space expeditions.

“We are so pleased to add a new mission to our fleet of spacecraft that help us better understand the Sun, as well as how our star influences the space environment between planets,” Nicky Fox, the head of NASA’s Heliophysics Division said in a statement.

“The more we know about how the Sun erupts with space weather events, the more we can mitigate their effects on spacecraft and astronauts,” she added.

As explained by NASA, the SunRISE mission will be composed of a total of six CubeSats. Each instrument, which is about as big as a toaster, will be solar-powered. These small spacecraft will fly about six miles from one another, forming a mini satellite constellation.

Through the CubeSats, NASA will create a 3D map that identifies the locations where massive solar outbursts occur on the Sun’s surface. Aside from mapping out solar emissions, SunRISE will also monitor how these outbursts evolve as they travel across space.

“Together, the six CubeSats will create 3D maps to pinpoint where giant particle bursts originate on the Sun and how they evolve as they expand outward into space,” NASA explained. “This, in turn, will help determine what initiates and accelerates these giant jets of radiation.”

SunRISE Mission A new NASA mission called SunRISE will study what drives solar particle storms – giant surges of solar particles that erupt off of the Sun – as depicted in this illustration. Understanding how such storms affect interplanetary space can help protect spacecraft and astronauts. Photo: NASA