Solar flares are large, eruptive events that occur within the solar atmosphere. Large magnetic flux tubes called coronal loops are often forced into each other before undergoing a process called magnetic reconnection. This reconnection event creates a highly stressed magnetic field structure and releases a large amount of energy into particles and radiation. Energetic and eruptive events on the solar surface such as solar flares and the related coronal mass ejections are important points of study as they can impact the near-Earth environment, may play a role in the heating of the solar corona, and provide a deeper insight into high-energy plasma physics.
The Experiment for X-ray Characterization and Timing (EXACT), is a 3U (10x10x30 cm3) CubeSat,
whose primary focus is the monitoring of X-ray emission from these solar flares. This emission, produced by high energy electrons colliding with ions, allows physicists to probe and understand the mechanisms energizing particles within solar flares. As particles receive 10% - 50% of the energy released in flares, understanding the processes involved is vital to understanding the energetics of the flares themselves. In particular, EXACT will be operating with phenomenal time-resolution (<25ms), allowing the resolving of small-timescale (<1s) fluctuations in the X-ray flux. These fluctuation can then be correlated back to the acceleration timescales of the particles themselves, before being compared to the characteristic timescales of particle acceleration mechanisms within solar flares.
Research and development for EXACT has been made possible through the support of the National
Science Foundation (NSF), the Minnesota Space Grant Consortium, and the University NanoSat Program (UNP), a research program operated under the Air Force and Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL). Dr. Lindsay Glesener is the PI of the EXACT project.