NASA Launches Mission to the Sun: Investigates Mysterious Solar Radio Emissions

Written by Kathrine Frich

Jul.09 - 2024 2:12 PM CET

Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock
They are Deploying Two Small Satelites

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NASA's CubeSat Radio Interferometry Experiment, known as CURIE, is set to launch today, July 9th, aiming to investigate the mysterious origins of radio waves emitted by the Sun.

Deploys Two Small Satellites

According to Hotnews since their initial detection by British radar operators in 1942, solar radio waves have intrigued scientists. At the time, these findings were kept confidential as a military secret, not published until after World War II. Researchers have since determined that these waves originate from solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs). However, the exact location within a CME where these radio waves are produced remains unknown.

To solve this mystery, NASA will deploy two small satellites, each no larger than a shoebox, to orbit Earth approximately three kilometers apart. This separation will enable the satellites to use a technique called low-frequency radio interferometry, a first in space exploration. The method involves measuring tiny differences in the arrival times of radio waves at each satellite, allowing scientists to pinpoint their origin.

"This is an ambitious mission," said David Sundkvist, a researcher at the University of California, Berkeley. "It's the first time anyone is using an interferometer in space in a controlled manner, marking a milestone for radio astronomy."

Cant Be Studied From Earth

The CURIE mission's two satellites, developed by experts at UC Berkeley, will be launched from the Kourou Space Center in French Guiana aboard an Ariane 6 rocket from the European Space Agency. Once in orbit, the satellites will measure radio waves with frequencies ranging from 0.1 to 19 megahertz. These frequencies cannot be studied from Earth due to atmospheric interference, making space-based observation essential.

CURIE will also pave the way for the upcoming Sun Radio Interferometer Space Experiment (SunRISE) mission, which will use six CubeSats to create a 2D map of the regions where solar radio waves originate.

By enhancing our understanding of solar radio waves and their origins, CURIE and SunRISE will contribute significantly to space weather research, potentially improving our ability to predict and mitigate the effects of solar storms on Earth.