Thursday, July 12, 2012

July 11th HI-C Flight a Success

The above graphic is an overview of the stages of the July 11th flight of the High Resolution Coronal Imager (HI-C). Image Credit: Apogee Imaging Systems

NASA reported a successful flight on Wednesday, July 11th, of the High Resolution Coronal Imager (HI-C) from White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico. Preliminary results show that good data was taken during the ten-minute sub-orbital flight. We await more details from NASA as they become available.

HI-C is the highest resolution solar telescope ever to observe the solar corona, the million degree outer solar atmosphere. The solar telescope flew atop a Black Brant sounding rocket. Of the 602-second flight, actual data collection was expected to last for 381 seconds while HI-C was above Earth's atmosphere.

The spatial resolution on HI-C is about five times more detailed than the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) instrument on the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), that can resolve structures down to 600 miles and currently sends back some of our most stunning and scientifically useful images of the sun. AIA can see the entire sun at this resolution, but HI-C focused on an area just one-sixth the width of the sun or 135,000 miles across. Also, AIA observes the sun in ten different wavelengths, while HI-C observes just one: 193 Angstroms. This wavelength of UV light corresponds to material in the sun at temperatures of 1.5 million Kelvin and that wavelength is typically used to observe material in the corona.

In addition to seeing the finest structures yet seen in the sun’s corona, HI-C serves as a test bed for this high-resolution telescope. Often one improves telescope resolution simply by building bigger mirrors, but this is not possible when constraining a telescope to the size of a sounding rocket, or even a long-term satellite. So HI-C's mirror is only about nine and a half inches across, no bigger than that of AIA. The HI-C mirrors are made by a team at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center.

And now, the mission particulars...

NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center is leading the international effort for Hi-C. Key partners include the University of Alabama at Huntsville, Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, University of Central Lancashire in Lancashire, England, and the Lebedev Physical Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

To read more about HI-C, visit these URLs:

Apogee Imaging Systems, makers of the imaging system for the High Resolution Coronal Imager (HI-C),

NASA News, 10/21/2011 - "Marshall Scientist Dr. Jonathan Cirtain Receives Presidential Early Career Award." NASA Marshall Space Flight Center.

NASA News, 06/21/2012 - "Hi-C to Investigate Activity in Solar Atmosphere." NASA Marshall Space Flight Center.

NASA News, 07/05/2012 - "HI-C Sounding Rocket Mission Has Finest Mirrors Ever Made." Wallops Flight Facility, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.


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