The Solar Particle Acceleration Radiation and Kinetics (SPARK) Mission Concept

Reid, Hamish A. S., Musset, Sophie, Ryan, Daniel F., Andretta, Vincenzo, Auchère, Frédéric, Baker, Deborah, Benvenuto, Federico, Browning, Philippa, Buchlin, Éric et al (2023) The Solar Particle Acceleration Radiation and Kinetics (SPARK) Mission Concept. Aerospace, 10 (12).

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Particle acceleration is a fundamental process arising in many astrophysical objects, including active galactic nuclei, black holes, neutron stars, gamma-ray bursts, accretion disks, solar and stellar coronae, and planetary magnetospheres. Its ubiquity means energetic particles permeate the Universe and influence the conditions for the emergence and continuation of life. In our solar system, the Sun is the most energetic particle accelerator, and its proximity makes it a unique laboratory in which to explore astrophysical particle acceleration. However, despite its importance, the physics underlying solar particle acceleration remain poorly understood. The SPARK mission will reveal new discoveries about particle acceleration through a uniquely powerful and complete combination of γ-ray, X-ray, and EUV imaging and spectroscopy at high spectral, spatial, and temporal resolutions. SPARK’s instruments will provide a step change in observational capability, enabling fundamental breakthroughs in our understanding of solar particle acceleration and the phenomena associated with it, such as the evolution of solar eruptive events. By providing essential diagnostics of the processes that drive the onset and evolution of solar flares and coronal mass ejections, SPARK will elucidate the underlying physics of space weather events that can damage satellites and power grids, disrupt telecommunications and GPS navigation, and endanger astronauts in space. The prediction of such events and the mitigation of their potential impacts are crucial in protecting our terrestrial and space-based infrastructure.

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