information on the interstellar medium. No comparable solar observations of the 511 keV line have yet been carried out. Based on the analogy with the galactic case, we are confident that much new qualitative information will be forthcoming from high resolution observations of annihilation radiation from solar flares.

  • Heating of the corona, by observing bremsstrahlung from electron acceleration in microflares and other non-thermal processes. If even minimal efficiency for 10 MeV proton acceleration accompanies the energy deposition in the solar corona, then the corona can also be observed as a steady source of 2.223 MeV line emission; that is, it has been shown that even if one part in several thousand of the energy needed to accelerate the solar wind is deposited in the corona by protons of energies greater than 10 MeV, the Sun would be a steady source of gamma-ray line emission. Because of its great sensitivity to the very narrow 2.223 MeV neutron capture line, HESP could detect the presence of ion interactions which heat the nonflaring solar atmosphere. The question of the heating of the solar corona could therefore be investigated with HESP in a novel way.

The HESP payload will consist of a single instrument, a Ge spectrometer that combines high spectral resolution for hard X-rays and gamma-rays with high-resolution imaging from modulation-collimator optics. It will also have the capability for observing meson-decay gamma-rays and neutrons using its anticoincidence shield elements. The instrument will have angular resolution below one arc sec, energy resolution on the order of 1 keV (over an energy range up to 10 MeV), and time resolution of < 1 s. Observations with HESP will characterize the evolution of solar activity from the beginning and through the maximum of Cycle 23. To carry out its mission properly, HESP should be accompanied with diagnostic observations of parameters of solar plasma in the 104 - 107 K temperature range, and with vector magnetic field measurements in the photosphere. Such observations could be provided by the instruments on OSL if OSL is operating during the next peak of solar activity. (If not, HESP should carry XUV, EUV, and enhanced visible instrumentation capable of imaging and spectroscopy of the solar atmosphere.) HESP, as defined here, lies in the small-to-moderate mission category, and is consistent with the scope of the Explorer program. The Solar Panel regards HESP as the highest priority new mission for solar physics in the 90's, and strongly recommends its rapid development, so that it is in orbit by the next rise to maximum solar activity around 1999.

3.3.3 "Quick" Opportunities in Space

In addition to HESP and the on-going missions, we feel strongly that a full spectrum of space flight opportunity should exist and be exploited properly for solar physics. The small end of the spectrum --to which Freeman Dyson's comment that "Quick is Beautiful" applies perfectly -includes Small Explorers, Shuttle-based experiments (including GAS payloads), the suborbital program (balloons and rockets), partial payloads on various U.S. and international spacecraft, and small attached payloads on the Space Station. Many of these smaller, short time-scale opportunities have a major positive effect on the nature of the solar physics program because of the involvement of students and the impetus towards innovation in instrumentation.

Balloons and rockets will continue to be at the forefront of instrument development activities for future space missions. These vehicles can also produce highly valuable data. Long-duration balloon flights, for example, can offer 7-20 days of data, thus providing essentially mini-spacecraft missions at low cost for certain wavelength ranges (gamma-rays, hard X-rays, optical). The current Max '91 Solar Balloon Program is a good example of an initiative exploiting this capability, but has been the subject of major cutbacks. The SPARTAN program and other limited-duration experiments on board the Space Shuttles also deserve notice, and indeed have already produced important data in several branches of solar physics. Suborbital and other "quick" opportunities are the ideal vehicles for student training in experimental work, essential for the future growth of the discipline.

The Space Station Freedom, with proper planning and adequate transportation back and forth to orbit, could meet many of the requirements for small solar space instrumentation (as has the Spacelab program, in fact). For example, precise radiometric instruments could be deployed, intercalibrated, exchanged with new versions, etc. Such measurements would benefit solar and stellar astronomy as well as radiometry in general. The Ultra High Resolution XUV Spectroheliograph (UHRXS), recently selected for flight on Freedom, should achieve spectrally resolved images with angular resolution of are seconds over the wavelength interval ,550Å, which is indicative of the potential that Freedom represents for solar physics.

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement