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NASA has funded a five-year outreach program in association with the Polarimeter to UNify the Corona and Heliosphere (PUNCH), a solar mission led by Southwest Research Institute (SwRI). The PUNCH Outreach Program, also led by SwRI, is collaborating with five planetariums and science centers in four states, plus other multicultural partners in the southwestern United States.
PUNCH has passed its Key Decision Point C, and has been confirmed as a “GO” for development and flight. The decision was made in a hybrid in-person & remote meeting at NASA Headquarters between project management, the Explorers Program, the Mission Directorate, the joints heads of the Science Divisions, and the Associate Administrator for Science. The mission is transitioning to a merged Phase C (Final Design) and Phase D (Assembly, Integration, & Test). PUNCH Phase C/D continues through launch plus 90 days. More details will be posted shortly.
The PUNCH mission consists of four spacecraft in Earth orbit that together will be uniquely capable of imaging the space environment from the outer corona of the Sun all the way to Earth orbit. There is a Near Field Imager and three Wide Field Imagers (WFIs).
PUNCH 2 Science Meeting First Announcement (March 31, 2021) We invite the community to the second PUNCH (Polarimeter to UNify the Corona and Heliosphere) Science Meeting (August 9-11, 2021), an in-development NASA mission that will image the outer corona and solar wind throughout the inner heliosphere. Major science topics include origin and evolution of the ambient solar wind and turbulence within it, and the physics and predictability of transient events including CMEs, CIRs, and shocks.
During June, the PUNCH Outreach Program deployed the first two expeditions to collect photography at an ancient Sun-watching site in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico. Our friends in the Native community emphasized that these sites are as alive today as they were to the ancestors, and in working at such places it is critical that we respect them and have a pure heart. We need to honor the ancestors. As such, the photography team learned to engage in a moment of reflection and appreciation each day before starting work at the site.
SAN ANTONIO — May 24, 2021 — On May 20, 2021, the Polarimeter to UNify the Corona and Heliosphere (PUNCH) mission achieved an important milestone, passing NASA’s Preliminary Design Review (PDR) of its spacecraft and payload experiments. Southwest Research Institute is leading PUNCH, a NASA Small Explorer (SMEX) mission that will integrate understanding of the Sun’s corona, the outer atmosphere visible during total solar eclipses, with the “solar wind” that fills the solar system.
PUNCH has instituted a program to recognize and encourage early-career scientists working with the Science Team on problems that support and enhance PUNCH mission science. PUNCH Associate Investigators (AIs) pursue science projects with mentorship from PUNCH co-I(s), attend team meetings, participate in PUNCH working group activities, and present at PUNCH science meetings. They act as liaisons, communicating PUNCH science to the broader community and community needs back to the project. In this way, they help grow the PUNCH user base, and also benefit from the career-enriching experience of being embedded in a NASA mission at an early stage of their careers.
PUNCH, the Polarimeter to UNify the Corona and Heliosphere, is an in-development NASA mission that will image the outer corona and solar wind throughout the inner heliosphere. Major science topics include origin and evolution of the ambient solar wind and turbulence within it, and the physics and predictability of transient events including CMEs, CIRs, and shocks.
The first PUNCH Science Team meeting was held virtually June 3-5, 2020. 44 team members and colleagues attended, sharing information about the mission, instruments, science goals, and planned data products. We also learned about STEAM, our student enhancement option, and plans for PUNCH Outreach. The Outreach presentation included a member of the Hopi tribe who read aloud his letter of support for our envisioned plan. There are many Science Team members who are experienced and interested in contributing to Outreach and Communications for PUNCH.
On April 8, 2020, the Polarimeter to UNify the Corona and Heliosphere (PUNCH) mission achieved an important milestone, passing NASA's critical System Requirements Review/Mission Definition Review (SRR/MDR). Southwest Research Institute is leading PUNCH, a NASA Small Explorer (SMEX) mission that will integrate understanding of the Sun's corona, the outer atmosphere visible during eclipses, with the tenuous "solar wind" filling the solar system.
The Polarimeter to Unify the Corona and Heliosphere (PUNCH) mission has entered Phase B, which marks the transition from concept study to preliminary flight design. The mission, led by Southwest Research Institute, is set to launch in early 2023 and will image the Sun’s outer corona and beyond.