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NASA’s Hi-C Rocket Experiment Reveals Never-Before-Seen Images of Solar Flares

NASA’s Hi-C Rocket Experiment Reveals Never-Before-Seen Images of Solar Flares

On April 17, at the Poker Flat Research Range in Fairbanks, Alaska, the Black Brant IX rocket was launched, carrying the innovative rocket. High resolution coronary imaging (Hello-J). This device, developed by NASA, represents an important step forward in the study of solar phenomena, thanks to the use of advanced technologies and a new algorithm to predict the behavior of the Sun. Solar flares.

After months of preparation and years since its last flight, the Hi-C Flare mission has provided an unprecedented perspective on solar flares, thanks to the use of low noise cameras Developed at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, the cameras are part of a suite of latest-generation instruments mounted on the rocket that have allowed investigators to study the extreme energies associated with solar flares.

The launch campaign for this mission was described as groundbreaking by Sabrina Savage, Hi-C Flare principal investigator at Marshall. Using sounding rockets to observe the Sun and test new, improved techniques for detecting solar flares is an absolute novelty.

This was the third Hi-C to fly, but the first to fly with additional instruments, including COOL-AID (Coronal OverLapagram – Auxiliary Imaging Diagnostics), CAPRI-SUN (High-energy and Low-energy Passband X-Ray Detector with Integrated Full Sunlight Field of View), and SSAXI (Sun Activity Rapid X-Ray Imager). After a month of payload integration and testing at White Sands, New Mexico, investigators completed final integration at the Alaska launch site.

During the two-week launch period, the team spent about five hours each morning preparing for the experiment, followed by up to four hours of solar data monitoring for a C5 or higher eruption lasting longer than the rocket’s flight. The launch finally occurred on the penultimate day of the launch window.

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Despite the presence of several active regions, the Sun was unusually quiet during the campaign, which increased tension among teams who feared that the launch would not be able to proceed. However, shortly before the window closed, a long-lasting M-class solar flare occurred, enabling the launch.

Once in the air, sensors on the Hi-C Flare rocket pointed the cameras at the sun and stabilized the instruments. A shutter door was then opened to allow the cameras to collect data for about five minutes before the door was closed and the rocket returned to Earth.

The rocket crashed into the Alaskan tundra, where it remained until conditions were safe enough for the team to recover it and begin processing the collected data.

The innovation was not just about technology, but also about using a new algorithm to predict the behavior of solar flares, allowing the rocket to launch at the perfect time. This method has proven successful, and the data collected by the four instruments is still being processed. However, the data from Hi-C 3 and COOL-AID have already been described as exceptional.