Dec. 30 (UPI) -- NASA has given the go-ahead to a pair of heliophysics missions designed to aid the study of space weather.
Both the Extreme Ultraviolent High-Throughput Spectroscopic Telescope Epsilon Mission, or EUVST, and the Electrojet Zeeman Imaging Explorer mission, or EZIE, aim to illuminate the physics of solar wind, solar flares and coronal mass ejections, the phenomena that produce electromagnetic storms and propel them toward Earth.
More specifically, the EUVST mission's high-powered telescope will focus on how the sun's atmosphere fuels solar winds and explosive eruptions.
The EZIE mission's three CubeSats will focus on the ways the particles released by the sun's explosions impact the electric currents connecting Earth's magnetosphere and its aurorae.
Japan's space agency, JAXA, will lead the EUVST mission, but will be assisted by NASA and variety of other international organizations.
NASA's efforts on the mission will be led by Harry Warren, a space scientist with the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in Washington. In addition to the expertise of its scientists and engineers, NASA is also chipping in $55 million toward the mission.
NASA's own EZIE mission will get $53.3 million. Jeng-Hwa "Sam" Yee, of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, will serve as the mission's principal investigator.
"We are very pleased to add these new missions to the growing fleet of satellites that are studying our sun-Earth system using an amazing array of unprecedented observational tools," Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for science at NASA Headquarters in Washington, said in a news release.
"In addition to my enthusiasm at selecting a pioneering multi-point observatory focused on the auroral electrojets, I am particularly excited to follow up the success of the Yohkoh and Hinode solar science missions with another international collaboration with JAXA and other European partners on EUVST."
EUVST and EZIE join a variety of Earth- and space-based missions aimed at understanding electromagnetic storms, both their solar origins and their impacts on Earth.
Earlier this year, scientists working on NASA's High Resolution Coronal Imager mission shared the sharpest-ever photos of the sun, revealing fine magnetic threads of super heated plasma that make up the sun's outer layer -- offering further insights into physics of the sun's eruptions.
EZIE's three miniature satellites will be dedicated to investigating the mechanics of the auroral electrojet, a powerful current swirling through the atmosphere some 60 to 90 miles above the Earth's surface.
The current connects Earth's magnetosphere and atmosphere and plays a key role in fueling aurorae.
"With these new missions, we're expanding how we study the Sun, space, and Earth as an interconnected system," said Peg Luce, deputy director of the Heliophysics Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
"EZIE's use of instrument technology proven on Earth science CubeSat missions is just one example of how science and technology development at NASA go hand in hand across disciplines," Luce said.