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Solar Sail

(Image credit: NASA)

(Image credit: L'Garde, Inc.)

Latest News: Sunjammer

Sunjammer is a NASA technology demonstration mission due to launch in 2014. Sunjammer will deploy the largest solar sail ever flown in space (13 000 square feet) and demonstrate the viability of using solar sail technology to fly in space with no propellant, using only the rays of the Sun. In fact, Sunjammer will use its sail to travel towards the Sun and station-keep closer to the Sun than existing science satellites, such as ACE.

To better understand the physics of the solar wind and space weather, Sunjammer will carry a magnetometer experiment, MAGIC, built by Imperial College and for which I am principal investigator. MAGIC will measure the magnetic field in the solar wind, and study the structure of events like Coronal Mass Ejections that result in significant space weather events. MAGIC is complemented by a plasma detector (SWAN) from UCL's Mullard Space Science Laboratory. MAGIC and SWAN together form Sunjammer's space weather payload. Development of this payload is supported by the UK Space Agency

Sitting further upstream of the Earth than any other satellite, Sunjammer has the potential to dramatically improve space weather monitoring, by doubling the warning time for geo-effective Coronal Mass Ejections.

The name Sunjammer is also of historic importance. It is the title of a short story written by Arthur C. Clark in the 1960s, where he first used the term 'solar sailing'. In the story, he describes a space 'yacht race', which in an interesting coincidence, is significantly affected by a space weather event...

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About me: I am a Lecturer and STFC Advanced Fellow at Imperial College London in the Blackett Laboratory's Space and Atmospheric Physics Group. In 2012 I was awarded the Zeldovich Medal by COSPAR (Scientific Commission D), for "outstanding research into the basic properties of collisionless plasmas in space which has led to a significant advancement of our understanding of magnetic reconnection and collisionless shocks." The Zeldovich Medals (a joint award of COSPAR and the Russian Academy of Sciences) are an international award conferred on young scientists for excellence and achievements and honour the distinguished astrophysicist Yakov B. Zeldovich.

(official Imperial College webpage - www.imperial.ac.uk/people/jonathan.eastwood)

 

This page was last changed on 27 April 2013