Friday, June 27, 2014

TROUBLE FOR THE STEREO MISSION?

NASA's twin STEREO probes, which can see the farside of the sun and make 3D models of incoming CMEs, have revolutionized space weather forecasting. We might have to do without them for a while. Later this year, the twin probes will pass directly behind the sun.


Originally, mission planners expected a brief eclipse. Instead, operations could be curtailed for more than a year. The reason has to do with STEREO's high gain antenna feed. Ironically, when the antenna points too close to the sun, it overheats. As the probes pass behind the sun, they can't point their antennas at Earth without heat-sensitive components becoming dangerously hot. This engineering problem was not anticipated when STEREO was launched in 2006. On the bright side, it might be possible to avert a complete blackout using the antenna's sidelobes. Tests in July will evaluate this possibility. Stay tuned for updates. Solar flare alerts: text, voice

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