Science Seminars

Heliospheric Distributed In-Situ Constellation (HelioDISC): A Mission to Untangle the Dynamic Mesoscale Sun-Earth Connection

Speaker: Robert Allen (JHUAPL)
Date: Thursday, Feb 17, 2022
Time: 4:00 PM
Location: Zoom

Seminar Abstract:

Mesoscale dynamics are a fundamental science priority in space physics, but fall within an observational gap of current and planned missions. Particularly in the solar wind, the mesoscale (spatial scales of around 0.5 Mkm to 10’s Mkm) is crucial for understanding the connection of the corona to an observer anywhere within the heliosphere, as well as for revealing the currently unresolved physics regulating particle acceleration and transport, magnetic field topology, and the causes for variability in the composition and acceleration of solar wind plasma. Multi-point measurements with mesoscale separations are required to address this fundamental gap in our understanding, as studies using single-point observations generally do not allow for investigations into cross-scale and mesoscale solar wind dynamics and plasma variability, nor do they allow for the exploration of sub-structuring of large-scale solar wind structures such as coronal mass ejections (CMEs) and co-rotating interaction regions (CIRs). These science questions necessitate simultaneous observations from multiple spacecraft at mesoscale separations. The baseline Heliospheric Distributed In-Situ Constellation (HelioDISC) mission requires a constellation in Earth-trailing heliocentric orbits near 1 au with inter-spacecraft separations varying from 100s RE (0.5 Mkm) early in the mission to few degrees in heliographic longitude (10’s Mkm) late in the mission. Each HelioDISC spacecraft will carry an identical payload, enabling simultaneous, longitudinally-separated observations from identical and inter-calibrated instrumentation primarily focusing on in situ plasma, fields, and particle measurements. This presentation will outline the mission architecture and payload of the HelioDISC mission, and how this mission will advance our understanding of the fundamental nature of the solar wind.