NASA’S CURIE Mission to Explore Solar Radio Waves

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It aims to study radio burst emissions from solar eruptions, such as flares and coronal mass ejections.

On Tuesday, NASA’s CubeSat Radio Interferometry Experiment (CURIE) is set to launch to explore the origins of radio waves from the sun, one of the key drivers of space weather.

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CURIE will lift off aboard an Ariane 6 rocket of the European Space Agency (ESA) from the Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana, and fly at an altitude of 360 miles above Earth’s surface.

By using radio interferometry, the mission aims to study radio burst emissions from solar eruptions, such as flares and coronal mass ejections in the inner heliosphere. These events drive space weather in increasing auroral activity and geomagnetic effects on Earth.

Designed by a team from the University of California, Berkeley, CURIE will be the first mission of its kind to measure radio waves in the 0.1-19 MHz frequency range from space. These wavelengths are blocked by Earth’s upper atmosphere, so this kind of research can only be done from space.

NASA’s CURIE mission, a pair of shoebox-sized spacecraft, is set to launch tomorrow! ???? ???? ????

Once in orbit, they’ll separate in order to triangulate mysterious radio signals from the Sun and pinpoint their origin.

Learn more: https://t.co/W60v9PPgWs pic.twitter.com/53Vxtp8kHD

— NASA Sun & Space (@NASASun) July 8, 2024

During the solar radio wave research, CURIE will use a technique called low frequency radio interferometry, which has never been used in space before. “This technique relies on CURIE’s two independent spacecraft – together no bigger than a shoebox – that will orbit Earth about two miles apart,” NASA said.

This separation allows CURIE’s instruments to measure tiny differences in the arrival time of radio waves, which enables them to determine exactly where the radio waves came from.

“This is a very ambitious and very exciting mission. This is the first time that someone is ever flying a radio interferometer in space in a controlled way, and so it’s a pathfinder for radio astronomy in general,” said Principal Investigator David Sundkvist, a researcher at the University of California, Berkeley.

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