Close

A new sensor for studying the Sun's outer atmosphere is carried by a NASA's sounding rocket.

The space agency will launch the Extreme Ultraviolet Normal Incidence Spectrograph (EUNIS) mission from New Mexico's White Sands Missile Range. The launch window opened on May 18, 2021.

The mission is an instrument suite installed on a sounding rocket, a spacecraft that undertakes brief flights beyond Earth's atmosphere before returning to Earth. EUNIS studies the Sun in a spectrum of severe ultraviolet radiation that does not penetrate Earth's atmosphere; therefore, getting to space is critical.

The Sun by the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly of NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory
(Photo: NASA/SDO (AIA) / WikiCommons)

EUNIS will take out on a Black Brant IX rocket and fly to a height of roughly 200 miles before parachuting down to Earth. The EUNIS team anticipates about six minutes of observation time.

NASA Rocket to Find Source Sun's Atmosphere

According to a SciTechDaily report, the researchers developed a new channel to measure wavelengths between nine and eleven nanometers for the forthcoming mission. After an unexpected result from EUNIS's last mission in 2013, NASA said the new wavelength range had gotten much attention.

The crew studied an active region-a magnetically complicated area on the Sun that is frequently the source of solar flares and sunspots-during the 2013 mission when they saw a spectral line losing 18 of its 26 electrons. It had to be heated to extremely high temperatures to lose many, far higher than the researchers expected.

ALSO READ: Artificial Intelligence Improves NASA's Sun Images, Solar Dynamics Observatory Says


The super-hot iron they saw is also predicted by one hypothesis of coronal heating. The corona is usually heated by a series of small magnetic explosions that work together to heat the corona. These nanoflares are generally too tiny to detect, but they should leave behind severe heat bursts like they witnessed.

With that, scientists aim to discover weak emissions from ions across an even larger region than before by detecting stronger lines.

Scientists Upgrades EUNIS Sensor Suite

Phys.org said the EUNIS sensor suite had been upgraded for the forthcoming trip to record significantly stronger spectral lines from the same ionized iron. It will also pick up iron lines that have released 17 electrons, which is almost as hot.

Because it's incorporated inside an image spectrometer equipment, this new channel is a first for solar science. Usually, scientists can only get accurate temperature profiles, known as spectra, by focusing on a single spot of the Sun at a time. However, to identify where the super-hot iron was spreading, the crew needed to know where those temperatures originated.

Knowing the temperatures while seeing an image helps EUNIS align its data with other co-observing missions, such as Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's and NASA's Hinode satellite missions, NASA's Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph, and NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory.

EUNIS' data, like those of many previous sounding rocket missions, will be utilized to guide and enhance subsequent space research missions. The Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, is a NASA spacecraft that takes pictures of the Sun in a variety of wavelength bands. The more exact your wavelength measurements can be, the better, because various wavelengths equate to different temperatures. EUNIS' observations will pinpoint a few key wavelengths with high precision, aiding SDO's picture calibration and providing scientists with a better understanding of what they're being shown in SDO photos.

RELATED ARTICLE: NASA Solar Parker Probe Quickly Passes Through 9th Solar Flyby to Study Solar Winds, Sun's Surface

Check out more news and information on Space in Science Times.