This image provided by NASA shows the sun emitting a significant X3.2-class flare erupting from the lower half of the sun, peaking at 5:40 p.m. EDT on Oct. 24, 2014. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, which watches the sun constantly and captured images of the event.
A sounding rocket fitted with technology to gather 1,500 images of the Sun in flat five minutes is set for launch on Monday.
Capturing five images per second, the Rapid Acquisition Imaging Spectrograph Experiment (RAISE) mission will focus in on the split-second changes that occur near active regions on the Sun.
These are areas of intense and complex magnetic fields that can give birth to giant eruptions on the Sun that shoot energy and particles out in all directions, the U.S. space agency said in a statement.
“Even on a five-minute flight, there are niche areas of science we can focus on well. There are areas of the Sun that need to be examined with the high-cadence observations we can provide,” said Don Hassler, solar scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado.
RAISE will create a kind of data product called a spectrogram which separates the light from the sun into different wavelengths.
“The Sun has been extremely active recently, producing several X-class flares in the past few weeks. The team will aim their instrument at one of these active regions to try to understand better the dynamics that cause these regions to erupt,” Mr. Hassler explained.
The team hopes to see how heat and energy move through such active regions, which, in turn, helps scientist understand what creates the regions and perhaps even what catalyses the sun’s eruptions.
RAISE’s launch time is planned for 2.07 p.m. (EST) from the White Sands Missile Range near Las Cruces, New Mexico.