Beyond Eclipse

2017 is a very special year. We were able to witness the total eclipse of the sun. Figure 1. The next total solar eclipse in the USA will be April 8, 2024. For those who are fortunate enough to be able to view this spectacular phenomenon, they would tell you it is an experience of a lifetime. But have you looked at the sun from the space. Rob Gartner of NASA provided us with this.

“A ground-based image of the total solar eclipse on Aug. 21, 2017 (gray, middle ring), is superimposed over an image of the Sun’s atmosphere, called the corona (red, outermost ring), as seen by ESA (the European Space Agency) and NASA’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), which watches the Sun from space. At center is an image of the sun’s surface as seen by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory in extreme ultraviolet wavelengths of light.

During a total solar eclipse, ground-based telescopes can observe the lowest part of the solar corona in a way that can’t be done at any other time, as the dim corona is normally obscured by the bright light of the Sun. The structure in the ground-based corona image — defined by giant magnetic fields sweeping out from the Sun’s surface — can clearly be seen extending into the outer image from the space-based telescope. The more scientists understand about the lower corona, the more they can understand what causes the constant outward stream of material called the solar wind, as well as occasional giant eruptions called coronal mass ejections.” Figure 2 is a view of the sun from space (the earth and the moon are not in this photo). Normally from earth we only see the sun as a bright spot (you are not supposed to look at the sun directly without protection!) This photo is a work of art. The big bright sun can be broken down into 3 regions as explained above. The brown area is the sun or sun surface as we know it. Because the sun/sun surface is so bright, we are not able to see the other regions with our naked eyes. The other regions (grey and red) can now be seen in this photo taken during the eclipse. The interesting fact is that without the eclipse the reflection from the sun is too much for the telescope camera. Thanks to NASA and the eclipse, now you can see the three regions of the sun.

Exo-Brake Slows Down the Speed of Nanosatellite as It Enters the Earth from Outer Space

On July 16, 1969. Apollo 11 blasted off to the moon. After four days, Armstrong and Aldrin landed on the moon. History was made. It is one of the greatest achievements we have. Almost 50 years later, not only we can go to the moon, scientists are able to design nanosatellites to return to earth. While this is beyond amazing, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is doing it all the time. Imagine all the scientific calculations that go into doing a project of going to space and return to earth. Most people are not even aware of all challenges one must overcome. Among them is the extreme heat the nanosatellite has to endure while entering the atmosphere which can be as high as 5000-degree Fahrenheit. To alleviate the situation, NASA came up with the idea of Exo-Brake ‘Parachute’.

For years, engineers at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley have been testing the idea of a parachute attached to the spacecraft to slow down its speed of reentering the earth’s atmosphere. On March 6, 2017, NASA’s Technology Educational Satellite (TechEdSat-5), was deployed from the NanoRacks platform to enter the low-Earth orbit from space. The TechEdSat-5 was equipped with the ExoBrake. While it is orbiting around 250 miles above earth, the Exo-Brake, shaped like a cross-shaped parachute would open up much like a sky diver opens its parachute. This action will help increase the drag to slow down the speed of the nanosatellite, facilitating early re-entry. With that, engineers could guide the spacecraft to a desired entry point for future payload return missions, without the use of fuel. Marvelous maneuver!

NASA Knowledge Available for Licensing

The crown jewel of the USA is the deep knowledge of science and technology. One well-kept secret if the amount of data and knowledge NASA has acquired over the years is available for licensing. Licensees can potentially saves years of R&D time in some cases. The NASA patent portfolio includes aeronautics, communications, electronics, health/medicine, IT software, instrumentation and more. Get to know your NASA.