Science Background

Space Weather

Space Weather refers to the environment between the Sun and the Earth. New global aviation space weather network launchedThe study of space weather focuses on the impacts it has on satellites in orbit and technology on Earth. Space weather typically originates from the Sun in the form of solar wind/flares or coronal mass ejections. This energy from the Sun hits the Earth’s magnetosphere, energizing the particles as they accelerate towards Earth’s ionosphere, thermosphere, and upper atmosphere. These interactions can produce strong x-rays that can block high-frequency radio communication, while coronal mass ejections can create geomagnetic storms that induce an excess current that can impact and even shut down power grids. These impacts highlight the importance of understanding space weather to better forecast and prepare for space weather events.

Coronal Mass Ejections

A Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) is a solar event characterized by the eruption of Graphic of a CME | NASA plasma and magnetic fields at the corona of the Sun. CMEs originate from twisted magnetic fields within the Sun that explode after abrupt realignment of those fields. As CMEs travel away from the Sun, they accelerate Solar Energetic Particles (SEPs), such as electrons and protons. Scientists are pursuing a better understanding of the structure of CMEs and how they accelerate SEPs. Understanding CMEs would allow scientists to make better predictions of CME occurrence and design proper CME warning systems.



The Magnetosphere

The magnetosphere is the region of space around an object in which the object’s magnetic field is dominant. Taking Stock of Cosmic Rays in the Solar System - EosBoth the Earth and the Sun  have a magnetosphere. The Sun’s magnetosphere interacts with the Earth’s and they interact, decreasing the amount of radiation that reaches the Earth – the Earth’s magnetosphere protects us from UV rays and other forms of radiation from the Sun, and the Sun’s helps to protect us from galactic cosmic radiation.

Earth’s Atmosphere

Earth’s atmosphere is composed of nitrogen most abundantly, oxygenLayers of Earth's Atmosphere Diagram | Quizlet secondarily, and a perceptible amount of argon and carbon dioxide to fill the rest. The thermosphere, which extends from 56 miles (90 km) to between 310 and 620 miles (500 and 1,000 km), is where auroras occur when particles get ionized by solar radiation. This ionized layer poses a great challenge to astronomers who use ground telescopes to study the Sun because it rejects any radio signals that are less than 15 MHz, where SEPs fall under. Thus, it is important that we establish space-based telescopes in order to obtain a relatively unobtrusive view of the Sun.

Solar Bursts

Solar bursts are low-frequency solar radio emissions that arise from the solar atmosphere. The Sun has been more active recently than astronomers predictedThe solar bursts that SunRISE focuses on are either categorized as Type II or Type III. Type II bursts are produced by shock accelerated electrons, while type III bursts are produced by flare accelerated electrons. By understanding the process in which these bursts progress and are developed, space weather can be more accurately predicted.


Radio Instrumentation


SunRISECubeSats are a type of small satellite that is commonly used in space research because of their ability to be assembled with commercial off-the-shelf electronic and structural components. They also have specific criteria for shape, size, and weight which helps reduce costs for building and deployment and allows them to be mass-produced. The standard unit of a CubeSat is 1U or 10 cm by 10 cm by 10 cm and is 1-1.33 kg. CubeSats are made in multiples of these units which allow for sizes of 1.5U, 2U, 3U, and 6U. The CubeSats deployed in SunRISE are 6U. 

Radio Interferometry

First of NASA's SunRISE Satellites Complete – Will Track Hazardous  Explosive Space Weather EventsRadio interferometry allows us to see and capture low-frequency signals. In the past, there was a limit to a range of signals scientists could see, because the longer wavelength of a signal, the larger a telescope is required for observation (many signals of interest are on the lower half of the electromagnetic spectrum). Building a single large telescope is not economical and is also restricted by mechanical constraints. Radio interferometry uses mathematical and physical models to patch incoming signals received by many different telescopes together. It reconstructs images that would have required a telescope that is hundreds, if not thousands, times its size. Now, the diameter of the Earth is used as the size of telescopes, making groundbreaking discoveries every day.


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