NASA awards $2 million for Wichita State professor to study sun

Wichita State University professor of physics, Dr. Nick Solomey
Wichita State University professor of physics, Dr. Nick Solomey(Wichita State University)
Published: Apr. 14, 2021 at 3:24 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Wichita State University on Wednesday, April 14, announced that NASA awarded a $2 million grant to a physics professor to study the sun. The grant is specifically for Dr. Nick Solomey’s work on developing a neutrino detector to work in space and close to the sun.

Dr. Solomey was one of five grant recipients NASA announced earlier this month from the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program, a news release from Wichita State said.

In its news release on the grants for “innovated, early-stage tech concepts for continued study,” NASA explained that, “neutrinos are one of the most abundant particles in the universe but are challenging to study since they rarely interact with matter. Therefore, large and sensitive Earth-based detectors are best suited to detect them.”

Dr. Solomey said understanding the core of our sun is an important goal for NASA and his work can play a key role in learning more about the star.

“In the past people have used neutrino detectors from solar fusion to show various rates and processes,” he said. “But by going close to the sun, the neutrino flux goes up 1,000-fold when we are at the distance of 7 solar radii, and 10,000 times at 3 solar radii. The angular resolution would be increased by 30 times, just by being closer to the sun — something we could not do on earth.”

Wichita State said that Dr. Solomey previously received a Phase II grant from NASA and his research showed that his technology could work in space. That work developed an early prototype of the neutrino detector.

Wichita State said Dr. Solomey, a high-energy particle physicist, has worked at the CERN particle accelerator in Switzerland and the Fermilab accelerator laboratory in Illinois.

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