A team led by Dr. Don Hassler in the
Department of Space Studies at Southwest Research Institute[tm] (SwRI) has
recently submitted a $180M proposal to NASA’s Mid-sized Explorer (MIDEX)
program, to build ESSEX: the EUV Solar Spectroscopic Explorer. The
multinational ESSEX team is led by SwRI but includes major hardware
contributions from the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, Germany’s Max
Planck Institut fur Aeronomie, and Ball Aerospace. Four countries and twelve
institutes are represented on the science team.

ESSEX is specifically designed to detect magnetic energy release and wave
motion on the smallest currently observed scales (~100 km) on the solar
surface. If selected for flight, the ESSEX spectrometer will extend
knowledge of solar wave phenomena by over four orders of magnitude in
frequency, up to 100 Hz, thanks to a novel “heterodyne” observing mode.
Since the discovery by SwRI scientist Craig DeForest of propagating sound
waves in the solar corona, interest in solar wave phenomena has exploded.
Waves both play an important role in the physics of solar phenomena, and
also provide a delicate probe into the physical conditions in the solar
chromosphere and corona.

SwRI is an independent, nonprofit, applied research and development
organization based in San Antonio, Texas, with more than 2,700 employees and
an annual research volume of more than $315 million.