NASA selects missions to observe the sun and its impact on Earth

An eruption from the sun on April 16, 2012, was captured here by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory. Credit: NASA

NASA has selected two satellite missions for launch on the same rocket in 2022 to investigate the origins of the solar wind and explore the interaction between magnetic fields around Earth with those from the sun.

The Polarimeter to Unify the Corona and Heliosphere, or PUNCH, mission will include four suitcase-sized microsatellites designed to image the outer solar corona, or the sun’s atmosphere, where the solar wind emerges before traveling throughout the solar system.

NASA also announced the selection of the Tandem Reconnection and Cusp Electrodynamics Reconnaissance Satellites, or TRACERS, mission for a grant of up to $115 million.

TRACERS will launch as a secondary payload on the same rocket with PUNCH. The mission will use two spacecraft, built by Millennium Space Systems, to study particles and fields at the Earth’s northern magnetic cusp region near the North Pole. The magnetic cusp is an opening where Earth’s magnetic field lines bend down toward the planet’s surface, providing an opening for solar radiation to reach deep into the atmosphere, particularly during violent geomagnetic storms triggered by outbursts from the sun.

Read about the Complete Mission