NASA has announced two missions that will help the scientists to understand the Sun’s effects on or our solar system. In order to do so, the first mission will study how Sun is responsible for driving particles and energy into the solar system and the second one will study how Earth responds to Sun’s phenomena.
The first of the two missions, The Polarimeter to Unify the Corona and Heliosphere, or PUNCH will focus on the Sun’s outer atmosphere to understand the origin of solar wind. Using four satellites, PUNCH will then image and track solar winds as they leave the Sun and make their way through the solar system. NASA expects that these observations will help other national and international missions.
The second mission is Tandem Reconnection and Cusp Electrodynamics Reconnaissance Satellites or TRACERS. TRACERS will be launched as a second payload with PUNCH to reduce the costs of launch and the mission will observe particles and fields at the Earth’s norther magnetic cusp region. With the easy access to our boundary with interplanetary space, TRACERS will study how Earth’s magnetic fields interact with the Sun’s.
Magnetic reconnection is responsible for all sorts of energetic events in the universe such as coronal mass ejections or solar flares. Moreover, the phenomenon allows particles from solar wind to push into near-Earth space to drive space weather in that area. TRACERS will explore this process in the cusp with two other spacecrafts to understand how different processes change over space and time. This will give important context for NASA’s Magnetospheric Multiscale mission as the data will allow NASA to safeguard our technology and astronauts in space for future missions.
At the moment, both of the missions are set to launch by August 2022 and will be managed by Explorers Program Office at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
“We carefully selected these two missions not only because of the high-class science they can do in their own right, but 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,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington.