The beauty of particle storms

A new NASA mission called SunRISE will study what drives solar particle storms – giant surges of solar particles that erupt off of the Sun – as depicted in this illustration. Understanding how such storms affect interplanetary space can help protect spacecraft and astronauts.
Credits: NASA

Things are feeling a little fucked down on earth, yes?

Let’s talk about storms somewhere else! In space.

NASA announced a new mission for July 2023 to study storms created by the sun. The new mission, called the Sun Radio Interferometer Space Experiment (SunRISE), uses six nano satellites the size of a toaster oven called CubeSats working together as “one very large radio telescope,” per NASA.

One other cool tidbit about this – the toaster-oven satellites are getting up there ride-share style by hitching a lift on a commercial satellite headed to do something else.

Once they deploy from their spacey Uber, the satellites will create 3D maps showing the particle bursts on the sun, and how they ooze into space like a tidal wave. With all eyes and minds focused on how things spread down on earth, it’s refreshing to think about how other forms of energy and matter move about. Those movements ripple from the Sun to interplanetary space, a pattern that will be mapped for the first time thanks to the SunRISE mission and six seemingly small and individual pieces of technology working together to paint a bigger picture of the universe.

“We are so pleased to add a new mission to our fleet of spacecraft that help us better understand the Sun, as well as how our star influences the space environment between planets,” said Nicky Fox, director of NASA’s Heliophysics Division, in a news release. “The more we know about how the Sun erupts with space weather events, the more we can mitigate their effects on spacecraft and astronauts.”

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