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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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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.

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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 Astronauts Spacewalk to Change ISS Batteries

Spacewalkers have now spent a total of 55 days, 21 hours and 39 minutes working outside the station

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NASA researchers have created the atmosphere of a super-hot planet outside our solar system, here on Earth. Pixabay

Two NASA astronauts – Nick Hague and Anne McClain – have successfully completed an over six hour spacewalk and replaced the ageing batteries on the International Space Station (ISS).

During the six hour, 39 minute spacewalk, Hague and McClain replaced nickel-hydrogen batteries with newer, more powerful lithium-ion batteries for the power channel on one pair of the station’s solar arrays, NASA said in a statement on Friday.

They also installed adapter plates and hooked up electrical connections for three of the six new lithium-ion batteries installed on the station’s starboard truss.

These new batteries provide an improved power capacity for operations with a lighter mass and a smaller volume than the nickel-hydrogen batteries.

The batteries store power generated by the station’s solar arrays to provide power to the station when the station is not in the sunlight, as it orbits the Earth during orbital night.

In addition, the astronaut duo also removed debris from outside of the station, securing a tieback for restraints on the Solar Array Blanket Box, NASA said.

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NASA will also have its first all-female spacewalk at the end of the month, when astronauts Anne McClain and Christina Koch will get to float around in space. The spacewalk will last about seven hours, according to the US space agency. Pixabay

McClain will again take a spacewalk on March 29 along with flight engineer Christina Koch to work on a second set of battery replacements on a different power channel in the same area of the ISS.

This would be the first-ever spacewalk with all-female spacewalkers, NASA said.

A third spacewalk on April 8 by Hague and David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency will lay out jumper cables between the Unity module and the S0 truss, at the midpoint of the ISS’s backbone.

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This work will establish a redundant path of power to the Canadian-built robotic arm, known as Canadarm2. They will also install cables to provide for more expansive wireless communications coverage outside the orbital complex, as well as for enhanced hardwired computer network capability.

Space station crew members have until now conducted 214 spacewalks in support of assembly and maintenance of the orbiting laboratory.

Spacewalkers have now spent a total of 55 days, 21 hours and 39 minutes working outside the station. (IANS)