NEWS | Oct. 9, 2013

NRL's VERIS Instrument Obtains First Subarcsecond Resolution EUV Spectra and Images of the Solar Atmosphere

By Donna McKinney

The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory's (NRL's) VEry high angular Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (VERIS) has obtained the first sub-arcsecond spectrally pure images of the solar atmosphere. VERIS launched from the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico on August 8, 2013.

VERIS was designed by NRL's Space Science Division and sponsored by NASA. Its goal is to uncover the fundamental structure of the solar atmosphere by obtaining sub-arcsecond Extreme Ultraviolet (EUV) solar spectra. Early results from VERIS show payload-imaged solar features less than one arc-second in size. VERIS measures properties of the structures in the sun's upper atmosphere with a factor of four higher resolution than similar instruments already in orbit.

As part of the NASA Low Cost Access to Space program, VERIS is a testbed for observing from the solar chromosphere through the solar corona with ultra-high spatial and spectral resolution. The VERIS instrument, with a mirror that is 6 inches in diameter, spans almost 10 feet in length and weighs almost 500 pounds. An instrument of this size is too large to fly on a satellite, but is a good match for a sounding rocket. It was designed and built by NRL's Dr. Clarence Korendyke and his team to observe the properties of the building block structures of the solar atmosphere in solar active regions, the quiet part of the sun, and in solar flares, over the full temperature range of the solar atmosphere. On the sun, large scale energy releases are driven by small scale physical processes, explained Dr. Korendyke, VERIS Principal Investigator, So we need to look at and understand the details of those processes. Knowledge of solar EUV emission variability gained from VERIS, Dr. Korendyke explains, will provide improved ability to forecast space weather at earth that adversely affects satellite communications and space asset tracking and situational awareness.

A first look at the data captured by VERIS shows a spatially resolved Helium spectrum and spectrally pure images in a number of EUV emission lines. Some of the measured solar structures were less than one arc-second in size. Although the VERIS flight only obtained six minutes of observing time above the earth's atmosphere, scientists will spend years analyzing the data collected during the flight.

The NRL VERIS launch team consisted of Clarence Korendyke, Angelos Vourlidas, Kevin Eisenhower, Samuel Tun, Dave Roberts, Jeff Morrill and Damien Chua, from the Space Science Division's Solar and Heliospheric Physics Branch.