The instrument, now called Very high Angular Resolution Ultraviolet Telescope (VAULT) 2.0, has been refurbished with new technology and an imaging detector to capture images more frequently than before. While in space, VAULT 2.0 will observe light emitted from hydrogen atoms at temperatures of 9,980 to 99,980 degrees Celsius, NASA said in a statement.

"That is the temperature range where the action is. These are the temperatures where the heating of the sun's atmosphere - the corona - really takes place," said Angelos Vourlidas, principal investigator for VAULT 2.0 at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, DC. This is the fourth flight for VAULT that will be launched from the White Sands Missile Range near Las Cruces, New Mexico.

Understanding how the corona heats remains one of the great, unanswered questions. The solar surface itself is only about 5,815 degrees Celsius but further up in the atmosphere, the temperatures rise to million of degrees Fahrenheit - the opposite of what one typically expects when moving away from a heat source.

The rocket will fly up to about 288 km in the air, just below the height where the International Space Station is. During the VAULT 2.0 launch, three other observatories will watch the same area: NASA's Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph or IRIS, the joint Japanese Exploration Agency and NASA's Hinode, and NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory or SDO. "Together, the three telescopes will be looking at a sandwich of solar material," Vourlidas added.

 

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