Capable of snapping 1,500 images in just five minutes, NASA’s newly launched rocket is raising the bar on studies of the sun. RAISE (Rapid Acquisition Imaging Spectrograph Experiment) is a type of sounding rocket, a relatively simple and cost-effective rocket that goes up 300 kilometres and spends 15–20 minutes making observations from above the atmosphere before returning to the ground.
Although NASA runs several missions geared towards continuous study of the sun, this new sounding rocket, RAISE will allow researchers to study the fast processes and split-second changes occurring near the sun’s active regions.
These active regions are areas of complex and intense magnetic activity that can cause solar flares, which spew energy and solar material into space.
“With RAISE, we’ll read out an image every two-tenths of a second, so we can study very fast processes and changes on the sun,” explains Don Hassler, principal investigator for the RAISE mission.
The data collected by RAISE can be used to create what’s called a spectrogram – a visual representation of the light emitted by the sun at different wavelengths. Looking at the intensity of light at these different wavelengths allows scientists to study the ways in which energy and solar material moves around the sun, and how this can evolve into solar eruptions.
RAISE was launched on 5 May from a missile range in the US state of New Mexico, soaring to an altitude of around 296 kilometres before parachuting gently down to Earth, where the machine is to be recovered and reused.