NRL VAULT Very-high-resolution Advanced ULtraviolet Telescope


What is VAULT?
VAULT is the Very high Angular resolution ULtraviolet Telescope designed and built by the Solar Physics Branch of the Space Science Division of the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C.

What Does VAULT Do?
VAULT takes pictures of the solar chromosphere and transition region at the highest resolution (<250 km) achieved to date. VAULT takes pictures in a special band of light called the Lyman-alpha band, named after American physicist Theodore Lyman.

Shockwave Animation (1Mb)

What is the Lyman-alpha Band?
Lyman-alpha radiation is emitted when neutral hydrogen atoms excited to their first energy level return to their ground state by giving off a burst of light at a wavelength of 1216 angstroms. An increased brightening of Lyman-alpha radiation may indicate an increase in solar radiation reaching earth.

Why Is This Important?
Increased solar radiation is hazardous for astronauts and can damage electronics on satellites. On earth it can damage power distribution systems, disrupt communications, and degrade navigation systems (such as GPS). Increased solar radiation may even warm the earth’s upper atmosphere enough to cause it to expand into the region occupied by some satellites, slowing them down and potentially changing their orbits.

Understanding how the sun works may allow us to predict disturbances on the solar surface that effect earth. If we can predict these disturbances, we can take action to protect our satellites, communications systems, and power distribution systems.

How Does VAULT Work?
VAULT uses a 30 cm (11.8 inch) Cassegrain telescope followed by a zero dispersion spectroheliograph that selects the Lyman-alpha wavelength and focuses the image onto a lumogen coated charge coupled device (CCD). CCDs are used in digital cameras and are 320 times more sensitive than photographic film.

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Launching Vault

Vault Instrument

Vault Images

    Very High Resolution Advanced Ultraviolet Telescope

2003 U.S. Naval Research Laboratory