NASA in a recent update has stated that the US space agency is all set to launch a rocket to probe the Sun’s nanoflare using X-ray vision.
Nanoflares are the tiny and highly intense eruptions that take place across the sun’s surface. These eruptions have resulted when the magnetic field lines of the sun’s atmosphere tangle up and stretch until they snap like a rubber band. The resultant energy released accelerates the particles to light speed and are responsible for heating up the solar atmosphere. The nanoflares are so tiny, that they are practically invisible to the naked eye.
Christened as “FOXSI” OR Focusing Optics X-ray Solar Imager, it is a sounding rocket mission that will fly 190 miles up in the earth’s atmosphere to scan the sun using x-ray vision in search of Nanoparticles. In a recent press release, NASA has stated that the mission is all set for its third flight from White Sands Mission Range in White Sands on September 7.
Lindsay Glesener who is a space physicist at the University of Minneapolis is one of the principal investigators for the FOXIS mission. He stated, “FOXSI is the first instrument built specially to image high-energy X-rays from the Sun by directly focusing them.”
NASA FOXSI rocket have benefits over other large-scale satellites due to its compact size and cheaper building costs. Also, being compact they travel at higher speed and can be built much faster than an average satellite, thus enabling scientists to study and map the space much more conveniently.
FOXSI being a sounding rocket will make a short 15-minute journey up above the earth’s atmosphere to collect data from the Sun’s Nanoflares, before falling back to the ground.
X-rays from the sun cannot be easily captured. The rays are generally hard to focus and are mostly unaffected by the mirrors that are used in conventional telescopes. Designed by the FOXSI team, FOXSI lenses are generally hard, smooth surfaces tilted at a small angle(less than half a degree) that would converge the incoming x-ray lights to a point of focus. This third mission also includes a new telescope designed for imaging lower energy, termed as soft x-rays.
“Including the soft X-ray telescope gives us more precise temperatures” allowing the team to spot nanoflare signatures that would be missed with the hard X-ray telescopes alone, said Glesener.
This will be NASA’s FOXSI third flight since 2012. During its first journey, FOXSI had successfully captured a small solar flare in progress and its second in 2014, when it detected the best evidence at the time of X-ray emission from nanoflares.