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NASA to retire Solar Energy Imager Spacecraft

NASA to retire their RHESSI spacecraft which has been instrumental in observing and collecting data how the Sun fuctions.

RHESSI and Sun above the Earth

This week, NASA will retire their Reuven Ramaty High Energy Spectroscopic Imager spacecraft. RHESSI, which has been orbiting the earth since 2002 is planned to end it’s journey on Wednesday, April 19. At 9:30pm EDT, the spacecraft will reenter the atmosphere. During reentry, the spacecraft is expected to burn up while traveling through the atmosphere, but some components of the spacecraft may survive.

RHESSI has been orbiting the earth since 2002 and for 16 of its 21years in orbit it observed solar flares. With data from the solar flare observations made by RHESSI, NASA learned more on the physics of how the sun’s energy bursts are created how they function.

During its mission, RHESSI used a combination of imaging and spectroscopy to collect data about high-energy radiation emitted by the sun. It did so through studying both x-rays and gamma rays. Scientists used the data to confirm many theories about the sun’s behaviors.

RHESSI’s Biggest Findings

  1. Discovery of nanoflares: scientists used their observations of the sun to find evidence of powerful bursts of energy on the suns surface. These small powerful bursts are called nanoflares.
  2. Mapping of the Sun’s magnetic field: Because of RHESSI, scientists developed the first detailed map of the magnetic field at the Sun’s surface. We now use that map to understand more about solar flares and coronal mass ejections.
  3. Confirmation of magnetic reconnection: RHESSI observations lead to the confirmation of the theory of magnetic reconnection which states that the magnetic field lines in the Sun’s atmosphere can suddenly realign and release massive amounts of energy in the form of solar flares and coronal mass ejections.

NEXT: Planet Guide: Mercury

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