(ORDO NEWS) — Six small NASA SunRISE satellites will work together to create the largest radio telescope ever launched to detect and track dangerous space weather events.
With the combined power of six toaster-sized satellites, NASA’s SunRISE will turn into a huge radio telescope in orbit.
Each small satellite (SmallSat) will act as an antenna to detect bursts of radio waves from the solar corona. Equipped with four telescopic antenna arms that extend about 2.5 meters and form an “X”, the satellites will orbit the Earth at a distance of about 36,000 kilometers.
After receiving a signal from all six satellites, scientists will use interferometry technology and create a virtual radio telescope with an aperture width equal to the distance between the most distant small satellites – about 10 km.
Ground-based radio telescopes often use interferometry to combine the observing power of individual antennas, but SunRISE will have a unique advantage over them: it will be able to pick up radio waves that are blocked by the ionosphere.
This means that thanks to SunRISE, the research team will be able to create detailed 3D maps of solar radio bursts.
“The ultimate goal of the mission is to help scientists better understand the mechanisms that cause explosive space weather events,” said Justin Kasper, SunRISE principal investigator at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.
“High-energy solar particles can pose a threat to unprotected astronauts and equipment. By monitoring the radio bursts associated with these events, we can be better prepared and informed.”
The observations obtained during the SunRise work can also be used in conjunction with data obtained from other space satellites and ground-based observatories.
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