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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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The stellar debris, approaching and swirling around the object's event horizon, caused the remarkably bright glow. Flcikr

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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China Exchanged Data With NASA On Its Recent Mission To Moon

The country has also said that it will welcome scientists and astronauts from around the world to make use of its space station, which is slated for completion by 2022.

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Wu Yanhua, deputy director of the national space agency, speaks during a press conference held in Beijing, China, Jan. 14, 2019. VOA

China exchanged data with NASA on its recent mission to land a Chinese spacecraft on the far side of the moon, the Chinese space agency said Monday, in what was reportedly the first such collaboration since an American law banned joint space projects with China that do not have prior congressional approval.

The space agency’s deputy director, Wu Yanhua, said NASA shared information about its lunar orbiter satellite in hopes of monitoring the landing of the Chang’e 4 spacecraft, which made China the first country to land on the far side of the moon earlier this month.

China in turn shared the time and coordinates of Chang’e 4’s scheduled landing, Wu told reporters during a briefing on the lunar mission. He added that while NASA’s satellite did not catch the precise moment of landing, it took photographs of the area afterward.

The state-run China Daily said that was the first such form of cooperation since the 2011 U.S. law was enacted.

Moon, China
The far side of the moon, photographed by the Chang’e-4 lunar probe, is seen in this image provided by China National Space Administration, Jan. 3, 2019. VOA

NASA has not published any statements on the collaboration and could not immediately be reached for comment.

The lunar mission by Chang’e 4 and its rover, Jade Rabbit 2, was a triumph for China’s growing space program, which has been rapidly catching up with those of Russia and the U.S. President Xi Jinping has placed space exploration among the country’s national development priorities and the far side mission offered a chance for China to do something not done before by any other country.

The far side of the moon – the side which faces away from Earth – posed a challenge for scientists because it is beyond radio signals’ reach. China set up a relay satellite in May to receive communication from Chang’e 4.

“In the past, we were always rushing to catch up to the advanced global standards” in space, said Wu Weiren, the chief designer of China’s lunar exploration project.

“There were many things to catch up on, and fewer things in which we could surpass others,” he said. “With the probe of the far side of the moon this time, Chinese people have done very well.”

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This picture taken Jan. 3, 2019, and received, Jan. 4, from the China National Space Administration (CNSA) via CNS shows a robotic lunar rover on the far side of the moon. VOA

Officials at the briefing declined to give specific figures on the costs of the space program.

Wu Yanhua said the Chang’e 4 was originally built as a “backup product” for Chang’e 3. He said the spending needed to refit it for its new objective was akin to repairing a short section of subway line.

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Around the end of this year, China plans to launch Chang’e 5, which is to collect and bring back samples from the near side of the moon, the first time that has been done since 1976. Scientists are still researching whether to send Chinese astronauts, Wu said.

The country has also said that it will welcome scientists and astronauts from around the world to make use of its space station, which is slated for completion by 2022. (VOA)