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PUNCH mission: NASA selects Dipankar Banerjee as Co-Investigator

Date: 01 July 2019 Tags: Space

NASA has selected Indian solar physicist from Indian Institute of Astrophysics Dipankar Banerjee as a Co-Investigator of its PUNCH (Polarimeter to Unify the Corona and Heliosphere) mission which will image the Sun. It also has selected Texas-based Southwest Research Institute to lead its PUNCH mission.

About PUNCH Mission

  • It is expected to be launched in 2022. It will consist of constellation of four suitcase-sized microsats that will orbit Earth in formation. It will study how Sun’s corona (which is the atmosphere of the Sun), connects with the interplanetary medium.
  • Mission Objective: It will image regions beyond the Sun’s outer corona. It will also image and track the solar wind and also coronal mass ejections.
  • Coronal mass ejections (CMS): It is huge masses of plasma that get thrown out of Sun’s atmosphere. It can affect and drive space weather events near Earth.
  • Significance: It will enhance other solar mission such as NASA’s Parker Solar Probe and ESA-NASA joint project, Solar Orbiter by tracking structures of Sun’s atmosphere in real time. Since Sun’s corona is much fainter than its surface layers, it cannot be viewed by instruments directly. So PUNCH Mission will block out light from the Sun to view its corona and the structures in it.

India’s Aditya-L1 Mission

India is planning to send up its own satellite Aditya-L1, a mission to study Sun’s corona.  Prof. Banerjee is the co-Chair of the Science Working Group for Aditya-L1 mission. PUNCH mission team is also plans to observe Sun using joint observations from PUNCH and Indian mission Aditya, which is underway.