We have been wearing sunglasses, sunscreens, hats and what not to protect ourselves from the radiations of the sun but did you know that sun and its solar winds act like a shield protecting us from the damage other entities in the universe can make?
The solar wind is nothing but ionized gas having magnetic fields. This magnetic field is intense enough to damage the functioning of any satellite which comes into its range. But these radiations are also acting as a protective cover closing our solar system in a bubble and saving us from the more dangerous interplanetary emissions.
This phenomenon in the heliosphere needs in-depth analysis, and NASA is preparing to send an Interstellar Mapping and Acceleration Probe (IMAP) mission to analyze particles that make it through the heliosphere. $492 million is the estimated cost of the mission which does not include the cost of launch.
IMAP will broaden our understanding of the cosmic filter and its mechanism. Dennis Andrucyk, NASA’s Science Mission’s deputy administrator, stated that the inferences of this expedition would take us to a new level of understanding the deep space. The big problem we have is it took some 35 years for our Voyager to reach the layers of heliosphere we know today. It was launched in 1977. We can’t wait for a couple of decades to know about this.
The spacecraft being sent on the mission will be going a million miles away from Earth where there is gravitational pull of sun and Earth acting simultaneously to keep the spacecraft stable- the Lagrange Point 1- at this position, the satellite would orbit the same location and gather information. However, a million miles is only a small fraction to cover to reach the boundaries of the distant heliosphere. However, as compared to the speed of Voyager, the Deep Space observatory took only 117 days to reach L1, could be we reach there now even sooner with IMAP.
IMAP will use ten instruments to monitor as well as collect particles from the outside space. The goal of this mission is to send information about the shape, nature, and radiations of the heliosphere.
It would be critical to identify how the cosmic radiation crosses so many layers and manages to reach our solar system. And what keeps other things from getting into our space. The possible impact of this radiation either biological or technological will be studied after IMAP is launched in 2024.