NOVA Highlights Sunrise Missions and Observations

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Friday, April 7, 2017

The March issue of NOVA features Sunrise, the scientific collaboration that twice launched the largest balloon-borne solar telescope to ever leave the Earth's surface. Launched from the Esrange Space Center in Kiruna, Sweden, it was carried aboard the HAO-developed gondola.

See NOVA, Observations from Sunrise.

The solar observatory Sunrise was carried above 99% of Earth’s atmosphere by a balloon during its two flights in 2009 and 2013. [Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS)]
Flight paths of the two Sunrise missions image
The flight paths of the two Sunrise missions. Both launched in northern Sweden, and came down in slightly different locations in northern Canada. [Adapted from Solanki et al. 2017]

Sunrise was conceived with the goal of observing magnetic structures in the Sun's surface; features such as sunspots in unprecedented detail which help us to understand the processes responsible for the formation and eventual disappearance of these enigmatic solar phenomena. In order to meet this goal the data must be collected from above the Earth's turbulent atmosphere.

Transporting Sunrise Gondala to launch pad image
A crane hoists the Sunrise II payload in preparation for its 2013 flight. [Adapted from Solanki et al. 2017]

The Sunrise flight project was a scientific collaboration between HAO, the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, the Kiepenheuer Institute for Solar Physics, the Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias, the Lockheed-Martin Solar and Astrophysics Laboratory, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, and the Esrange Space Centre. HAO’s portion of the project (the responsibility of designing and building a gondola able to withstand stratospheric stresses, to safely transport, protect and continuously point the delicate Sunrise telescope at the Sun) was funded by a NASA, low-cost access to space award, and the Max Planck Institute.

More about the Sunrise II mission, the Sunrise gondola landing, the design and performance, the Sunrise science flight details, the Sunrise gondola recovery, and the scientist who conceived Sunrise.