U of M team working on NASA Solar Probe experiment

Here’s a research project that should have plenty of appeal during Minnesota’s upcoming dark and freezing winter days.

It is an experiment on NASA’s $180 million Solar Probe Plus (SPP), a spacecraft that will travel closer to the sun than ever before.

NASA recently announced a $7 million grant to the University of Minnesota for work in the FIELDS experiment, one of four instrument suites aboard the spacecraft. Part of the FIELDS suite is an instrument called the Time Domain Sampler (TDS), which will measure electric and magnetic fields, radio emissions and shockwaves that course through the environment of the sun. 

A team led by Keith Goetz, associate program director for the U of M’s School of Physics and Astronomy, developed the TDS. Now that team will work with Stuart Bale, a U of M alumnus who currently is a physics professor at the University of California Berkeley, where he directs the UCB Space Sciences Lab

“Solar Probe Plus is really the most interesting mission we can do in the field of space physics,” Goetz said in a statement.

The project is slated to launch no later than 2018, and the spacecraft will travel to within 4 million miles of the sun’s surface.

“Going so close to the sun will allow us to determine the mechanisms that lead to the million-degree solar corona as well as the million-miles-per-hour stream of charged particles from the sun called the solar wind,” Goetz said.

The Solar Probe Plus mission is part of NASA’s Living with a Star Program, designed to understand aspects of the sun and Earth’s space environment that affect life and society.

For more information about the Solar Probe Plus mission, go here or here.

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