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Solar Maximum Mission

Solar Maximum Mission

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The Solar Maximum Mission satellite
In the context of spaceflight, a satellite is an object which has been placed into orbit by human endeavour. Such objects are sometimes called artificial satellites to distinguish them from natural satellites such as the Moon....

 (or SolarMax) was designed to investigate solar phenomenon, particularly solar flares. It was launched on February 14, 1980.

Although not unique in this endeavor, the SMM was notable in that its useful life compared with similar spacecraft
A spacecraft or spaceship is a craft or machine designed for spaceflight. Spacecraft are used for a variety of purposes, including communications, earth observation, meteorology, navigation, planetary exploration and transportation of humans and cargo....

 was significantly increased by the direct intervention of a manned space mission. During STS-41-C
STS-41-C was NASA's 11th Space Shuttle mission, and the fifth mission of Space Shuttle Challenger. The launch on 6 April 1984 was the first direct ascent trajectory for a shuttle mission...

 in 1984, the Space Shuttle Challenger
Space Shuttle Challenger
Space Shuttle Challenger was NASA's second Space Shuttle orbiter to be put into service, Columbia having been the first. The shuttle was built by Rockwell International's Space Transportation Systems Division in Downey, California...

 intercepted the SMM, maneuvering it into the shuttle's payload bay for maintenance and repairs. SMM had been fitted with a shuttle "grapple fixture" so that the shuttle's robot arm could grab it for repair. The mission was depicted in the 1985 IMAX
IMAX is a motion picture film format and a set of proprietary cinema projection standards created by the Canadian company IMAX Corporation. IMAX has the capacity to record and display images of far greater size and resolution than conventional film systems...

 movie The Dream Is Alive
The Dream Is Alive
The Dream is Alive is an IMAX movie, released in June 1985, about NASA's Space Shuttle program. The film was narrated by Walter Cronkite, and directed by Graeme Ferguson.-Synopsis:...


The Solar Maximum Mission ended on December 2, 1989, when the spacecraft re-entered the atmosphere
Atmospheric reentry
Atmospheric entry is the movement of human-made or natural objects as they enter the atmosphere of a celestial body from outer space—in the case of Earth from an altitude above the Kármán Line,...

 and burned up.


Experiments on board the Solar Maximum Mission
Name Target Principal Investigator
Coronagraph/Polarimeter: 446.5-658.3 nm, 1.5- 6 sq.solar radii fov
Field of view
The field of view is the extent of the observable world that is seen at any given moment....

, 6.4 arcsec res.
solar corona, prominences, and flares MacQueen, Robert M, High Altitude Observatory
High Altitude Observatory
The High Altitude Observatory conducts research and provides support and facilities for the solar-terrestrial research community in the areas of solar and heliospheric physics, and the effects of solar variability on the Earth's magnetosphere, ionosphere, and upper atmosphere.HAO is a laboratory...

Ultraviolet Spectrometer and polarimeter 175.0-360.0 nm raster imager, 0.004 nm sp.res. solar UV, Earth
Earth is the third planet from the Sun, and the densest and fifth-largest of the eight planets in the Solar System. It is also the largest of the Solar System's four terrestrial planets...

's atmosphere
An atmosphere is a layer of gases that may surround a material body of sufficient mass, and that is held in place by the gravity of the body. An atmosphere may be retained for a longer duration, if the gravity is high and the atmosphere's temperature is low...

Tandberg-Hanssen, Einar A, NASA
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation's civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research...

 Marshall Space Flight Center
Marshall Space Flight Center
The George C. Marshall Space Flight Center is the U.S. government's civilian rocketry and spacecraft propulsion research center. The largest center of NASA, MSFC's first mission was developing the Saturn launch vehicles for the Apollo moon program...

Soft X-ray Polychromator: raster imager, crystal spectrom. in parts of 0.14-2.25 nm solar flares, active solar regions Acton, Loren W
Loren Acton
Loren Wilber Acton is an American physicist who flew on Space Shuttle mission STS-51-F as a Payload Specialist for the Lockheed Palo Alto Research Laboratory.Acton was born in Lewistown, Montana...

 Lockheed Palo Alto
Lockheed Corporation
The Lockheed Corporation was an American aerospace company. Lockheed was founded in 1912 and later merged with Martin Marietta to form Lockheed Martin in 1995.-Origins:...

, Culhane, J University College, London, Leonard, Gabriel, Alan-Henri, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory
Rutherford Appleton Laboratory
The Rutherford Appleton Laboratory is one of the national scientific research laboratories in the UK operated by the Science and Technology Facilities Council . It is located on the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus at Chilton near Didcot in Oxfordshire, United Kingdom...

Hard X-ray Imaging Spectrometer: fov
Field of view
The field of view is the extent of the observable world that is seen at any given moment....

 6.4 arcmin, 8 or 32 arcsec res, 3.5-30 keV
solar active regions and flares de Jager, Cornelis, University of Utrecht
Hard X-ray Burst Spectrometer: CsI(Na), 15 energy channels covering 20-260 keV solar flares and active regions Frost, Kenneth J NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Gamma-ray Spectrometer: NaI(T1),0.01-100 MeV in 476 channels, 16.4 s per spectrum solar gamma-rays Chupp, Edward L, University of New Hampshire
University of New Hampshire
The University of New Hampshire is a public university in the University System of New Hampshire , United States. The main campus is in Durham, New Hampshire. An additional campus is located in Manchester. With over 15,000 students, UNH is the largest university in New Hampshire. The university is...

Active Cavity Radiometer Irradiance Monitor: 0.001-1000 micrometer solar flux solar irradiance Willson, Richard C, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Significantly, the SMM's ACRIM instrument package showed that, contrary to expectations, the Sun is actually brighter during the sunspot
Sunspots are temporary phenomena on the photosphere of the Sun that appear visibly as dark spots compared to surrounding regions. They are caused by intense magnetic activity, which inhibits convection by an effect comparable to the eddy current brake, forming areas of reduced surface temperature....

 cycle maximum (when the greatest number of dark 'sunspots' appear). This is because sunspots are surrounded by bright features called faculae, which more than cancel the darkening effect of the sunspot.

The major scientific findings from SMM are presented in several review articles in a Monograph.

The Solar Maximum Mission satellite during 1987-1989 discovered 10 sungrazing comet
Sungrazing comet
A sungrazing comet is a comet that passes extremely close to the Sun at perihelion – sometimes within a few thousand kilometres of the Sun's surface. While small sungrazers can be completely evaporated during such a close approach to the Sun, larger sungrazers can survive many perihelion passages...


See also

  • Solar and Heliospheric Observatory
    Solar and Heliospheric Observatory
    The Solar and Heliospheric Observatory is a spacecraft built by a European industrial consortium led by Matra Marconi Space that was launched on a Lockheed Martin Atlas IIAS launch vehicle on December 2, 1995 to study the Sun, and has discovered over 2100 comets. It began normal operations in May...

  • WIND (spacecraft)
  • Advanced Composition Explorer
    Advanced Composition Explorer
    Advanced Composition Explorer is a NASA space exploration mission being conducted as part of the Explorer program to study matter in situ, comprising energetic particles from the solar wind, the interplanetary medium, and other sources. Real-time data from ACE is used by the Space Weather...

  • Solar Probe Plus

External links