Brian Dunbar Headquarters, Washington, D.C.

July 9,1991 (Phone: 202/453-1547) Susie Marucci Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. (Phone: 301/286-7504) Keith Koehler Wallops Flight Facility, Wallops Island, Va. (Phone: 804/824-1579) RELEASE: 91-108 NASA'S GODDARD SPACE FLIGHT CENTER TO STUDY SOLAR ECLIPSE NASA will participate in two experiments to study the July 11 solar eclipse from the ground and from space. A new cryogenic instrument attached to the 3-meter NASA Infrared Telescope Facility on the summit of Mauna Kea, Hawaii, will test a theory about the sun's atomic processes, and an X-ray telescope carried by a sounding rocket, to be launched from White Sands, N.M., will study the solar corona. In the infrared experiment, scientists from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., will use the eclipse as a unique diagnostic tool to test a theory that solar non-thermal atomic processes create the infrared emission lines (very bright regions in an object's spectrum) first observed in the solar infrared spectrum in the early 1980s. The experiment, called the 12-Micron Solar Eclipse Experiment, will focus on emission lines in the infrared region of the Sun's spectrum using a new cryogenic grating spectrometer developed by Goddard's Dr. Donald Jennings. Because the origin of these emission lines is so localized within a very thin layer of the Sun's atmosphere, some of their aspects can only be

studied during an eclipse, when the moon blocks the overwhelmingly bright surface of the Sun. Normally, emission lines would be formed by thermal processes in the chromosphere, a relatively hot, thin region of the solar atmosphere just above the Sun's surface. The Goddard experiment will test an alternative theory that suggests that the emission lines are produced by atomic processes in a region of the atmosphere below and much cooler than the chromosphere. Emission lines formed in that region must have been created by non-thermal means, the scientists explain. -more-2Goddard's Dr. Drake Deming, principal investigator for the experiment, expects that the data his team receives will prove the atomic-process theory. Deming said, "We think our experiment will show that these lines are caused by non-thermal processes." The eclipse provides a unique opportunity to observe the chromosphere, which is not normally "seen" by instruments because of the brightness of the Sun's surface. As the moon's path takes it across the Sun, it will screen the spectrometer from the surface radiation and allow scientists to take readings from the thin chromosphere. The recording will begin about 40 seconds before the moon begins to block the Sun completely. The images will be recorded at about 5 frames-per-second until the last moment the Sun is completely blocked by the moon. In the X-ray experiment, a NASA-provided Black Brant IX sounding rocket will carry an X-ray telescope to observe the Sun's corona (the extended solar atmosphere from which the solar wind emanates) at the same time solar observers in Mauna Kea are seeing the total eclipse. The goal of the experiment is to help scientists understand the physical mechanisms responsible for coronal heating and dynamics. The rocket is scheduled to be launched at 1:26 p.m. EDT July 11 from the White Sands Missile Range, N.M. The launch window runs from 1:16 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. EDT. This will be the third flight of the payload. Two other

successful flights were conducted from White Sands on Feb. 22, 1991 and Sept. 11, 1989. The payload will be recovered as in the previous flights. The two-stage Black Brant IX, one of 15 suborbital launch vehicles in NASA's sounding rocket fleet, is expected to carry the payload to an altitude of 151 miles. The solid-fueled rocket, with payload, is nearly 53 feet tall. The principal investigator for the mission is Dr. Leon Golub from the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, Cambridge, Mass. The project manager is Frank Lau from the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center's Wallops Flight Facility, Wallops Island, Va. -end-