NASA has sanctioned two new missions. These two will allow scientists to gain a better understanding of solar weather and what effects it could have in space and on Earth. One of these missions has the purpose of studying the solar upper atmosphere, called the corona, namely, the charged particles that are released into the system from this part of the Sun.
Designated as PUNCH, this mission will study how Earth reacts to solar weather by using four rectangular shaped satellites that observe solar winds. TRACERS, the second mission, will use two satellites to observe how charged particles in the solar winds affect the planet.
The Sun continually outputs particles that have been designated as solar winds. This type of radiation or “space weather” can affect the safety and operation of spacecraft orbiting the planet, as well as causing health and safety issues for astronauts currently assigned to missions in space. The $280 million missions have the purpose of finding out how solar weather and activity could affect Earth’s magnetic field.
NASA Invests $280 Million In Two New Missions To Study Solar Weather
Minor solar weather events are flows of radiation that cannot affect Earth due to the thick atmosphere that protects the planet. But severe solar activity, known as solar storms, could severely cripple planetary communications and various crucial grids that support the stability of our society.
That was evidenced by the 1859 event that saw a massive coronal mass ejection that halted worldwide telegraph communications, injured workers at these stations and caused significant fires. Such an event happening today would affect society on a grand scale due to our reliance on technology to hold infrastructure in place. Sensitive systems manage the safe operation of all commercial flights and all utilities, just to name a few.
NASA comments on the two missions: “We carefully selected these two missions not only because of the high-class science they can do in their own right. Because they will work well together with the other heliophysics spacecraft advancing NASA’s mission to protect astronauts, space technology and life down here on Earth.”