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Center Independent Research & Development: GSFC IRAD

Beach Ball Coronagraph

Completed Technology Project

Project Introduction

Beach Ball Coronagraph

A precision formation flying coronagraph with an inflatable, passive ‘beach ball’ occulter has the chance to make possible the next generation of advances in coronal physics, while wowing scientist and the general public with amazing images and movies of the Sun’s evolution on timescales of seconds for solar eruptions to years in studying the coronal evolution over the solar cycle.  The limiting component on this system is the inflatable occulter, which has not even begun to be conceptualized.

The “Beach Ball” Coronagraph will be the first steps to simplify and revolutionize the next generation solar coronagraph design.  The solar corona is the source region of solar eruptions, both solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs).  These eruptions are initiated above the solar surface in a region inside 2.5 solar radii from the Sun center. In observing the solar corona in this region using visible light, the contributions from the solar disk far outweigh, by orders of magnitude, the coronal loop observations of interest to study the initiation of these large eruptions.  The advent of the solar coronagraph, where an occulting disk is placed over the solar disk to block the dominant source of on-disk light, is used in order to make the observations of the dimmer coronal loops.  The major source of noise then in coronagraphs is now dominated by diffraction of light from the solar surface off the occulter. A "beach ball" coronagraph occultor with formation flying distance of 100+ feet can provide significant increase in the science capabilities possible.

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A final report document may be available for this project. If you would like to request it, please contact us.

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