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Tuesday July 26th, 2016

Summer Camp Cadets Honor Pioneering Work Project Recreated Historic Spectroscope

Alamogordo, New Mexico, July 19, 2016) - Summer camp cadets at the New Mexico Museum of Space History’s Rocketeer Academy recently honored a pioneering mission that opened the exploration of the Sun from space. Cadets attending The Goldilocks Star session in July built simple models of the solar spectroscope flown in 1946 onboard a V-2 rocket launched from what was then White Sands Proving Ground. The highlight of the cadets’ week was a trip to White Sands Missile Range to see a modern day version of that spectroscope being readied for launch.

IMAGE: Rocketeer Academy cadets, with education director Dave Dooling, visit the restored V-2 launch pad at White Sands Missile Range.

Rocketeer Academy cadets, with education director Dave Dooling, visit the restored V-2 launch pad at White Sands Missile Range.

On June 29, cadets traveled to White Sands Missile Range to meet with Drs. Jonathan Cirtain and Amy Winebarger of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. Cirtain and Winebarger are solar scientists working on the Hi-C (High-resolution Coronal Imaging telescope) project. Cadets got an up close look at the Hi-C, which is being readied for re-flight, and had the opportunity talk with the solar scientists one on one. Hi-C’s first flight was in 2012, when it captured the highest resolution images ever taken of the solar corona. Its next flight, originally scheduled for July 19, has been rescheduled to July 27 between 12:26 and 1:13 pm.

Rocketeer Academy cadets built their spectroscopes from cardboard boxes and computer CDs. These let split light into the spectrum, revealing spectral lines in fluorescent lamps and other sources. When Hi-C launches, scientists hope to solve the mystery of why the sun’s corona is so hot, as compared to its surface.

This October 6 marks the 70th anniversary of the first rocket launch of an ultraviolet spectrograph that revealed new details of the solar spectrum. In 1946, Dr. Richard Tousey of the Naval Research Laboratory in Anacostia, MD, designed a spectroscope to ride a V-2 rocket launched from White Sands Proving Ground to measure solar ultraviolet radiation above the atmosphere's screening effects. His first effort, June 28, 1946, went unrewarded when the rocket returned to New Mexico in a screaming dive, ending up as a crater and a bucketful of debris. However, the second flight, in October 1946, went more than 100 miles high and yielded the first solar spectrum in the far ultraviolet. Tousey's work opened the era of solar research aboard satellites and manned spacecraft.

The New Mexico Museum of Space History, a Smithsonian affiliate, is a division of the NM Department of Cultural Affairs. For more information, call 575-437-2840 or toll free 1-877-333-6589 or visit the website at www.nmspacemuseum.org. Like us at: www.facebook.com/NMSpaceMuseum.