New ESA mission to explore innermost regions of solar system

March 21st, 2009 - 2:54 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, March 21 (ANI): The European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA have selected an imaging coronal spectrograph for the ESAs Solar Orbiter mission to explore the innermost regions of the solar system from the closest distances to the Sun ever attempted.

Designed by scientists and engineers at Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, US, the imaging coronal spectrograph is called SPICE (Spectral Imaging of the Coronal Environment).

The SPICE instrument is one of 10 selected to fly aboard the joint ESA/NASA Solar Orbiter mission.

It will measure different wavelengths of light emitted from the Sun to evaluate its plasma properties and composition with unprecedented spatial and spectral resolution.

Measuring these plasma properties remotely with SPICE, together with in-situ measurements from other instruments on the Solar Orbiter spacecraft, will help researchers understand the connection between the solar wind and its source regions near the Sun.

The data will advance our knowledge of the Suns dynamics to better understand its effects on Earth and the solar system.

SPICE is uniquely suited to fill a critical gap in our understanding of the basic conditions near the Sun and how these conditions effect the solar wind and the space environment near Earth, said Dr. Don Hassler, SPICE principal investigator.

According to Hassler, One of the greatest threats to human space exploration is the sudden, unpredictable occurrence of radiation outbursts from the Sun. Even satellites and power grids on and around Earth are at risk.

By improving our understanding of the dynamics of the Sun, SPICE will help develop the capability for forecasting and predicting solar conditions that could affect space travelers as well as life here on Earth, he said.

The SPICE investigation is part of NASAs Living with a Star Program, which is designed to understand how and why the Sun varies, how planetary systems respond, and the effects on human space and Earth activities. (ANI)

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