Academia Sinica, the nation’s top research institute, signed an agreement with a Japanese space research institution in Taipei on Friday to participate in a Japan-led mission that will study the physics of outer space near the Earth.
Signed by Academia Sinica president Wong Chi-huey (翁啟惠) and Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS) director-general Saku Tsuneta, the five-year agreement represents the first formal space research mission in which Taiwan will work with a world-renowned space institution, Academia Sinica said in a statement.
In Taiwan, the project will be led by the Academia Sinica Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics in partnership with National Cheng Kung University.
The mission, called Exploration of Energization and Radiation in Geospace (ERG), involves a small scientific research satellite that will study the behavior of highly charged electrons in the magnetosphere, the region of outer space near the Earth.
That is where the Van Allen radiation belt captures a huge volume of the highly charged energy particles that are the focal point of the study.
Japanese scientists hope that data from the satellite will help them explain how these high-energy electrons are born as they generate and vanish repeatedly during space storms, and how space storms themselves develop.
The Taiwanese team will deliver one of the project’s five key instruments, an LEP-e analyzer that collects low-energy electron data, to help the ERG satellite observe the distribution of energy and density of low-energy electrons surrounding Earth, Academia Sinica said.
The other four instruments are middle and high-energy electron analyzers, and low and middle-energy ion analyzers.
With all the data collected, researchers “can paint a comprehensive picture of the magnetosphere,” said Wang Shiang-yu, a research fellow at Academia Sinica.
By paving the way for future international opportunities in space research, the agreement will allow Taiwanese scientists to access ERG data for advanced research in geospace physics and increase their world-class space research opportunities.
It will also strengthen Taiwan’s capability in building top-notch instruments for space science missions, Academia Sinica said.
Part of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), ISAS leads Japanese scientific satellite mission developments.
JAXA is one of the world’s major space agencies, together with NASA and the European Space Agency.