Amit Jha
Amit Jha
25 Jun 2017

NASA’S CHESS mission to unlock the secrets of stars formation, might contribute in LUVOIR concept

Interstellar medium, where the giant clouds of neutral atoms, molecules, and plasma particles hover around, have concealed much information related to stars. From giant exoplanets to massive stars, the birth of such exotic and massive objects take place in these environments only which are also considered as the active regions of the universe. In order to uncover these hidden mysteries, NASA is all set to launch its new CHESS Sounding rocket mission to gather valuable information related to the lifecycle of stars.

Image of NASA'S CHESS payload being integrated with the sounding rocket

CHESS – also known as Colorado High-resolution Echelle Stellar Spectrograph, is a payload which will be launched on the morning of June 27, 2017, via Black Brant IX suborbital sounding rocket. CHESS will perform different light filtering techniques to gather information about the life cycle of stars. It will also acquire information that will help researchers to discover constituents of the different Interstellar medium.

When a star bursts during the supernovae, it scatters out the contents that were once hidden inside it. These constituents later from different stars, nebulae or sometimes planets over million of years. By recognizing the constituents, researchers are planning to take a step closer to identify the state in which the interstellar medium is, before getting converted into a star. The timeline of gas clouds to form stars is still unknown, however, speculations can be made by observing the densities of the gas clouds.

The operating principle of CHESS is similar to that of a spectrograph. It will study and record the spectra of light which are coming out of these active mediums and based on the amount of Carbon, Oxygen, Hydrogen, etc. atoms present in it, CHESS will show the diffraction pattern and the amount of light it received in the recorded spectrograph. Apart from that, it is also capable of pinpointing the motion as well as the thermal state of the constituent atoms. It will test its eye first at Beta Scorpii, a hot and shining star located in the Scorpius constellation. The constellation is well positioned to carry measurements via CHESS between the star and our solar system.

Before this mission, CHESS has carried out two successful missions and this one will be the third one in the past three years. A more advanced diffraction grating and other sensory instruments have been provided this time to gather precise data for obtaining valuable results. CHESS will fly only for 16 minutes, out of which 6 and half minutes will be used to acquire data. Ultraviolet lights can’t penetrate the earth’s atmosphere and hence CHESS will be sent just above the atmosphere to capture the ultraviolet light that it can work on. Thereafter it will return to the ground via grounding parachutes. The launch window for the mission will open at 1.10 A.M EDT at the White Sands Missile Range located in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

Depending on the success of this mission, researchers are expecting much important information to be uncovered related to the birth of stars. Some of them have a belief that the success of CHESS missions might give foundation to the NASA’s 2016 LUVOIR concept, the Large UV/ Optical/ IR Surveyor that can unlock the science behind the formation of stars and planets.

Source: NASA

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