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FOXSI Mission of NASA Will View The Sun With X-Ray Vision

In addition, several other performance improvements have been made to produce more accurate, higher resolution images

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US shutdown delays space missions but NASA not grounded: Report,

NASA’s Focusing Optics X-ray Solar Imager, or FOXSI — a sounding rocket mission — is soon set to stare directly at the Sun and search for nanoflares — miniature explosions invisible to the naked eye — using its X-ray vision, the US space agency said.

The FOXSI mission will take its third flight from the White Sands Missile Range in White Sands, New Mexico, no earlier than September 7, the agency said in a statement.

Derived from the nautical term “to sound”, meaning to measure, FOXSI rockets make brief 15-minute journeys above the Earth’s atmosphere for a peek at space before falling back to the ground.

FOXSI will travel 190 miles up, above the shield of Earth’s atmosphere, to view the sun.

“FOXSI is the first instrument built specially to image high-energy X-rays from the Sun by directly focusing them,” said Lindsay Glesener, space physicist at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis and principal investigator for the mission.

“Other instruments have done this for other astronomical objects but FOXSI is so far the only instrument to optimise especially for the Sun,” Glesener added.

Nanoflares — small but intense eruptions — are born when magnetic field lines in the Sun’s atmosphere tangle up and stretch until they break like a rubber band. The energy they release accelerates particles to near light speed and according to some scientists, heats the solar atmosphere to its searing million-degree Fahrenheit temperature.

NASA
FOXSI will travel 190 miles up, above the shield of Earth’s atmosphere, to view the sun. Flickr

All of this happens in colours of light so extreme that the human eye cannot see them, the scientists explained.

To focus the X-rays, the FOXSI team used extremely hard, smooth surfaces tilted to a small angle (less than half a degree) that would gently corral incoming X-ray light to a point of focus.

The third mission also includes a new telescope designed for imaging lower-energy, so-called soft X-rays as well.

“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.

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In addition, several other performance improvements have been made to produce more accurate, higher resolution images.

FOXSI rockets are smaller, cheaper and faster to develop than large-scale satellite missions, sounding rockets which offer a way for scientists to test their latest ideas and instruments and achieve rapid results.

The first FOXSI flight was in 2012, during which it successfully viewed 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. (IANS)

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NASA Explore Technology To Build Future Homes Made of Fungi For Moon, Mars

Upon arrival, by unfolding that basic structure and simply adding water, the fungi will be able to grow around that framework into a fully functional human habitat

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NASA
Keeping that in mind, the myco-architecture project out of NASA Ames Research Center in California is prototyping technologies that could "grow" habitats on the Moon, Mars and beyond out of life - specifically, fungi and the unseen underground threads that make up the main part of the fungus, known as mycelia. Pixabay

Instead of habitats made of metal and glass, NASA is exploring technologies that could grow structures out of fungi to become our future homes in the stars, and perhaps lead to more sustainable ways of living on Earth as well.

Creating a livable home for future astronauts means doing more than growing a roof to go over their heads. Astronauts will need to have all their basic needs met, just like on Earth, and face the additional challenges of living in a harsh environment on a distant world, the US space agency said in a statement.

Keeping that in mind, the myco-architecture project out of NASA’s Ames Research Center in California is prototyping technologies that could “grow” habitats on the Moon, Mars and beyond out of life – specifically, fungi and the unseen underground threads that make up the main part of the fungus, known as mycelia.

“Right now, traditional habitat designs for Mars are like a turtle – carrying our homes with us on our backs – a reliable plan, but with huge energy costs,” said Lynn Rothschild, the principal investigator on the early-stage project.

“Instead, we can harness mycelia (vegetative part of a fungus) to grow these habitats ourselves when we get there”. Ultimately, the project envisions a future where human explorers can bring a compact habitat built out of a lightweight material with dormant fungi that will last on long journeys to places like Mars.

Upon arrival, by unfolding that basic structure and simply adding water, the fungi will be able to grow around that framework into a fully functional human habitat – all while being safely contained within the habitat to avoid contaminating the Martian environment.

Mycelia are tiny threads that build complex structures with extreme precision, networking out into larger structures like mushrooms.
With the right conditions, they can be coaxed into making new structures – ranging from a material similar to leather to the building blocks for a Mars habitat.

NASA
Instead of habitats made of metal and glass, NASA is exploring technologies that could grow structures out of fungi to become our future homes in the stars, and perhaps lead to more sustainable ways of living on Earth as well. Pixabay

That last layer of mycelia is what organically grows into a sturdy home, first activated to grow in a contained environment and then baked to kill the lifeforms – providing structural integrity and ensuring no life contaminates Mars and any microbial life that’s already there. Even if some mycelia somehow escaped, they will be genetically altered to be incapable of surviving outside the habitat, said NASA.

Mycelia could also be used for water filtration and biomining systems that can extract minerals from wastewater – another project active in Rothschild’s lab – as well as bioluminescent lighting, humidity regulation and even self-generating habitats capable of healing themselves. And with about 40% of carbon emissions on Earth coming from construction, there’s an ever-increasing need for sustainable and affordable housing here as well.

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The harsh environments of the Moon and Mars will require new ways of living – growing homes instead of building them, mining minerals from sewage instead of rock. “But by turning to the elegant systems of our own natural world, we can design solutions that are green and sustainable. Whether on distant worlds or our own ever-changing Earth, fungi could be what brings us boldly into the future,” said NASA. (IANS)