First UK-led Solar Science Space Mission: SULIS – Consortium Membership OPEN

November 14, 2018, from Eamon Scullion

This post is designed to provide you with more information about SULIS (Solar cUbesats for Linked Imaging Spectropolarimetry), a UK-led solar science space mission concept and one of five shortlisted solar system priority projects named by STFC.

– – Mission Aim:

Understand the Sun’s link to the inner heliosphere via revolutionary UK-led technology.

– – Mission Outline:

Determining the 3D magnetic field of the solar corona is absolutely crucial for fully / finally understanding the physics of the heating of the corona (e.g. via waves or reconnection), solar wind acceleration and the potential geoeffectiveness of CMEs at the earliest opportunity. To date, there has been no mission dedicated to the direct measurement of the 3D magnetic field of the corona mainly because:

a) the polarisation signatures of coronal emission lines are very weak requiring very long integration times making it a challenging plane-of-sky measurement and

b) disambiguation of the 3D vector requires highly resolution simultaneous observations from multiple view-points involving multiple observatories with a large baseline (i.e. much like STEREO observations).

Magnetic fields shape the temperature and density structure of the corona and underpin all dynamic eruptions such as flares and CMEs. The energy released in dynamic eruptions is stored in the coronal magnetic field, therefore, an accurate measurement of the 3D magnetic field throughout the corona, with sufficient cadence resolution and sensitivity, is necessary to properly address long-standing solar physics questions.

In short, SULIS consists of three pairs of formation-flying coronagraphs (housed within 6U CubeSats) in 1AU STEREO-like orbits around the Sun. The sunward occulting CubeSat of each pair will observe magnetically sensitive spectral lines on the solar disk (via a state-of-the-art massively-multiplexed coronal spectropolarimeter) and, uniquely, act as an external occulter for the anti-sunward coronagraph CubeSat, which will observe the extended corona (out to 5 solar radii), via a high resolution multi-channel spectrometer and broadband hyperspectral imager.

High cadence observations of coronal emission line polarisation will employ the collective power of stereoscopy to disambiguate 3D field vectors, thereby, getting a proper handle on the evolutionary properties of the 3D magnetic field.

– – Mission Objectives:

1) Provide the first direct measurements of the 3D coronal magnetic field (unique science).

2) Provide eclipse-quality imaging of the extended solar corona (out to 5 solar radii) for a deeper understanding of fundamental science underpinning space weather.

3) Demonstrate UK-led future technologies (i.e, smart CubeSat’s; radiation- hardened large-format solar cells; laser optical communications).

– – Next Steps:

More information about the SULIS instruments and details of the existing SULIS consortium members is outlined here:

If you are interested in getting involved in the SULIS mission just contact Eamon Scullion by email:

If you are supportive of the SULIS mission concept, then you could help advance this project by making a positive comment in relation to SULIS within Q12 “Missions & international facilities (general)” of the Solar System Advisory Panel (SSAP) questionnaire, recently announced.

Kind Regards,

Eamon Scullion (Northumbria University Newcastle upon Tyne) on behalf of the SULIS Consortium.