UCLan space shot makes it into NASA calendar

The work of scientists at the University of Central Lancashire is reaching new heights as a photo taken by astronomers is set to adorn a calendar with a difference.

Thursday, 10th December 2020, 3:58 pm
Updated Thursday, 10th December 2020, 4:02 pm
This is the image which appears on the NASA 2021 calendar

An image showing the highest-ever resolution views of the sun’s outermost atmosphere has been picked to appear in the 2021 NASA Explore Science calendar.

The shot is one of several taken during the High-Resolution Coronal Imager (Hi-C) sounding rocket mission in 2018 that display strands of million-degree solar material as small as 70km in size, or around 0.01% the size of the sun, making them the highest resolution images ever taken of the sun’s outer atmosphere or corona.

Hi-C took this image on its third flight on a sounding rocket that makes brief journeys into space before falling back to Earth.

NASA’s High-Resolution Coronal Imager (Hi-C) mission provided the highest-resolution views ever captured of the Sun’s outer atmosphere, or corona, revealing fine strands of million-degree solar material.

A UCLan academic team, led by professor of solar physics at UCLan and institutional lead for the Hi-C team Robert Walsh, were integral to the sounding rocket instrument launch as well as working on the observational data analysis.

The image has been selected to represent March 2021 and appears alongside other outstanding pictures captured from various NASA missions, including ones by the Hubble space telescope and from the international space station.

Professor Walsh said: "We are very honoured to have this image selected for the NASA Explore Science calendar.

"It is fantastic that our collaboration with colleagues at the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center has been recognised in this way and we are in good company alongside other amazing and high calibre NASA projects."

He added: "It reflects just how much of an impact this piece of research has made as we try to understand the basic nature of our closest star."

The scientific paper Professor Walsh and UCLan colleague Dr Tom Williams published earlier this year on this Hi-C data, which unveiled the images for the first time, is now the one of the most read papers on the Astrophysical Journal website - with more than 24,500 downloads in just seven months.

The images show the sun’s outer-layer in ultra-high definition so they will help the Hi-C team in understanding the flow of energy through the sun and down to earth.

This should turn will help to predict the dynamic behaviour of the star.

The next planned sounding rocket flights to develop this research are in August 2021 and mid-2023.

NASA’s 2021 Explore Science calendar is available to download for free on the NASA website.