NASA heliophysics missions get the green light

Shane McGlaun - Dec 30, 2020, 7:06am CST
NASA heliophysics missions get the green light

NASA has confirmed the approval of two heliophysics missions to explore the Sun and the system driving space weather near Earth. The mission includes the Extreme Ultraviolent High-Throughput Spectroscopic Telescope Epsilon Mission, or EUVST. The other mission is the Electrojet Zeeman Imaging Explorer or EZIE. The goal of the missions are to help scientists better understanding the Sun and Earth as interconnected systems.

The goal is to better understand the physics driving solar wind and solar explosions, such as solar flares and coronal mass ejections, which could help scientists predict those events one day. Both solar flares and coronal mass ejections can impact human technology and astronauts operating in space.

JAXA is leading the EUVST mission along with other international partners. The mission is targeted to launch in 2026, and it’s a solar telescope intended to show how the solar atmosphere releases solar wind and drives eruptions of solar material. NASA is contributing $55 million to the mission.

EUVST is a mission addressing the recommendations of a final report delivered by the Next Generation Solar Physics Mission Science Objectives Team in July 2017. It will take a comprehensive UV spectroscopy measurements of the solar atmosphere at the highest level of detail gathered so far. The data will allow scientists to determine how different magnetic and plasma processes drive coronal heating and energy release.

EZIE is a mission to study electrical currents in the Earth’s atmosphere linking Aurora to the magnetosphere. A common measure of geomagnetic activity level is called Auroral Electrojet (AE), and despite its common use, little is known about the structure of the events. EZIE is scheduled to launch no earlier than June 2024.

The total budget for the mission is $53.3 million. The principal investigator on the mission is Sam Yee at the John Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland.

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