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NASA Pursues New Heliophysics Missions to Further Study the Sun

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NASA will employ a pair of new scientific missions to further study the Sun and its connection with Earth in ways that can benefit astronaut and space asset safety.

The space agency said Friday its Multi-slit Solar Explorer or MUSE mission aims to determine the roots of coronal heating and instability and provide insight into the corona’s basic plasma properties. The corona serves as the sun’s outermost atmospheric layer.

MUSE will also attempt to capture images that depict changes of solar flare ribbons. Bart DePontieu from the Lockheed Martin Advanced Technology Center will serve as MUSE’s principal investigator, with his organization being in charge of program management.

“It will provide more insight into space weather and complements a host of other missions within the heliophysics mission fleet,” Nicola Fox, director of the NASA’s heliophysics division, said about MUSE.

The second mission, known as HelioSwarm, will deploy nine spacecraft designed to measure solar wind turbulence, which refers to the fluctuations in the magnetic field of solar wind. HelioSwarm will employ a hub spacecraft linked with eight co-orbiting small satellites to measure plasma from different points.

Harlan Spence, a physics professor at the University of New Hampshire, will serve as the principal investigator for HelioSwarm, which will be managed by NASA’s Ames Research Center.

The Explorers Program Office within NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center will fund and oversee both missions under the Heliophysics Explorers Program.