Student Article / Science

Scrutinizing The Solar System: New Mission Of NASA And ESA

Scrutinizing The Solar System: New Mission Of NASA And ESA

Assistant Editor

27 Jun, 2019

NASA has selected two new missions– PUNCH AND TRACERS that aims to better our understanding of how the Sun drives extreme space weather whereas European Space Agency (ESA) has selected a “comet interceptor” or “cometary traverse”.


Solar system has sparked piquancy and paranoia among humans for years. In the Carrington Event of 1859 which damaged telegraph systems across the world. On the basis of their past experiences some of the scientists claiming that a repetition of such kind of an event today would knock out the electric grid definitely. On a smaller scale, solar storms can disturb satellites and ground-based technology. NASA and the European Space Agency earlier this month teamed up to create a weather forecast system just for incoming solar storms. On the years based research NASA decided to launch their two new missions “PUNCH & TRACERS” the many mysterious phenomena that occur on the Sun, such as mid-level solar flares, solar eclipses and even an unexpected solar rainstorm are coming out from the studies based research. 


PUNCH stands for The Polarimeter to Unify the Corona and Heliosphere. The PUNCH satellites will track in 3D the Sun’s coronal mass ejections, also known as “CMEs” or “space storms,” as they erupt from the corona out into interplanetary space.  CMEs cause some “space weather” events that affect Earth, which can threaten astronauts, damage satellites, black out power grids, and disrupt communication and GPS signals.

For this mission photography occurred in the sky polarized light “which is the secret source of punch”, says PUNCH’s Principal Investigator Craig De Forest (Southwest Research Institute). Sunlight becomes polarized when it bounces off the plasma’s electrons, he explains. PUNCH will consist of a constellation of four suitcase-sized microsatellites or “microsats” that will launch as early as 2022. It will fly in the Earth orbit formation. Tapering -field imager is also an important part to take the pictures from every angle which is handled by one of them, while the others carry wide-field imagers. Mystifying the wide-field imagers to take their eyes around the sun’s nearest area. Space weather events captured a picture of the sun which is thousand times obscure than the Milky Way. Together, these imagers will produce polarized-light images of the entire inner solar system. Space physicists will use this information to study how the solar wind turns into turbulent gusts by the time it reaches Earth. In the concern to become the closest-ever spacecraft to the Sun PUNCH will aid the parker solar probe which is launched in 2018. Parker completed its second close approach to the Sun on April 4, 2019. The next perihelion will come on September 1st. As the Sun is pounced, the probe directly investigates the region where the solar wind is generated.


TRACERS stands for “Tandem Reconnection and Cusp Electrodynamics Reconnaissance Satellites”. Launch date for the mission is no later than August 2022. To identify the reason how magnetic fields around the earth interact with the sun tracers will going to use two space crafts. In a process known as magnetic reconnection, the field lines explosively reconfigure, sending particles out at speeds that can approach the speed of light. Some of these particles will be guided by the Earth’s field into the region where TRACERS can observe them. 

TRACERS’ unique measurements will help with NASA’s mission to safeguard our technology and astronauts in space. The mission is led by Craig Kletzing at the University of Lowa in Lowa City. Not including rideshare costs, TRACERS is funded for no more than $115 million.

Both PUNCH AND TRACERS Programme will be managed by the Explorers Program Office at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. For the Science Mission Directorate, that conducts a wide variety of research and scientific exploration programs for Earth studies, space weather, the solar system and universe.


The COMET INTERCEPTOR is planned by ESA (The European Space Agency) to intercepts a comet as it enters to the inner solar space. On June 19 as the latest fast class mission in reference to its quick implementation. The mission's proposal was submitted to ESA in March, and it is scheduled to launch in 2028. Three spacecraft will going to work for “Comet Interceptor” will ride with ARIEL (atmospheric remote – sensing infrared exoplanet large –survey) to the L2 Lagrange point 1.5 million km (1 million miles) beyond Earth on the opposite side of the Sun. For the first time in history a new comet targeted coming to the inner solar system. Once it finds the targeted track the all three space crafts will fly together towards it to take a view from different angles of the targeted comet.

In previous ESA missions to study comets like giotto and rosetta. Comets were observed for the short span of time which approached the sun several times in recent history and here ESA come up with significant observable changes.

According to the statement, Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, in which the Rosetta spacecraft orbited from 2014 to 2016, swings by the sun every 6.5 years. In 1986, the Giotto spacecraft flew by Halley's Comet, which has an orbital period of 76 years.

This mission is so unique that it will going to observe a comet that has not yet interacted with the solar system and it will be launch before its target has been discovered. It will finally give a chance to the scientists to study about intruders.

By: Tripti Varun