NASA scientists Michael Collier, David Sibeck, and Scott Porter teamed to develop and demonstrate the first wide-field X-ray camera for studying a poorly understood phenomenon called “charge exchange.” Credit: Credit: NASA/Chris Gunn

This Black Brant IX rocket carried two instruments designed to study charge exchange, a physical phenomenon that occurs when the solar wind collides with Earth’s exosphere and neutral gas in interplanetary space. Credit: Credit: NASA

NASA scientists build first-ever wide-field X-ray imager

February 7, 2013 by Lori Keesey

(Phys.org)—Three NASA scientists teamed up to develop and demonstrate NASA’s first wide-field-of-view soft X-ray camera for studying “charge exchange,” a poorly understood phenomenon that occurs when the solar wind collides with Earth’s exosphere and neutral gas in interplanetary space.

The unique collaboration involved heliophysics, astrophysics and planetary science divisions at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., and resulted in the first successful demonstration of the Sheath Transport Observer for the Redistribution of Mass (STORM) instrument and a never-before-flown X-ray focusing technology called lobster-eye optics.

STORM and another NASA-funded experiment, the Diffuse X-ray emission from the Local galaxy (DXL), flew aboard a two-stage Black Brant IX sounding rocket from the White Sands Missile Range, Las Cruces, N.M., in December 2012. DXL, developed by University of Miami professor Massimillano Galeazzi, also studied the same charge-exchange phenomenon but from a different perspective using a refurbished instrument developed by the University of Wisconsin, Madison. This instrument produced the first all-sky map of soft X-rays several years ago. (X-rays are called “soft” when their wavelengths are nearer the ultraviolet portion of the electromagnetic spectrum.)

Though Goddard scientists served as co-principal investigators on DXL, STORM holds a special place in their hearts. Developed and assembled at Goddard, the instrument “is a wonderful example of cooperation across divisions to better understand a process that is of interest to us all, but for different reasons,” said Michael Collier, a planetary scientist who collaborated with astrophysicist Scott Porter and heliophysicist David Sibeck, all of NASA Goddard. “Charge exchange is one of the few phenomena that brings together scientists from three of the science divisions at Goddard,” Porter added.

Read more: NASA scientists build first-ever wide-field X-ray imager — phys.org.

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