Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Astrophysical & Planetary Sciences

First Advisor

Kevin C. France

Second Advisor

Thomas N. Woods

Third Advisor

Amir Caspi

Fourth Advisor

Steven R. Cranmer

Fifth Advisor

James C. Green


Advances in technology and instrumentation open new windows for observing astrophysical objects. The first half of my dissertation involves the development of atomic layer deposition (ALD) coatings to create high reflectivity UV mirrors for future satellite astronomical telescopes. Aluminum (Al) has intrinsic reflectance greater than 80% from 90 – 2,000 nm, but develops a native aluminum oxide (Al2O3) layer upon exposure to air that readily absorbs light below 250 nm. Thus, Al based UV mirrors must be protected by a transmissive overcoat. Traditionally, metal-fluoride overcoats such as MgF2 and LiF are used to mitigate oxidation but with caveats. We utilize a new metal fluoride (AlF3) to protect Al mirrors deposited by ALD. ALD allows for precise thickness control, conformal and near stoichiometric thin films. We prove that depositing ultra-thin (~3 nm) ALD ALF3 to protect Al mirrors after removing the native oxide layer via atomic layer etching (ALE) enhances the reflectance near 90 nm from ~5% to ~30%.

X-ray detector technology with high readout rates are necessary for the relatively bright Sun, particularly during large flares. The hot plasma in the solar corona generates X-rays, which yield information on the physical conditions of the plasma. The second half of my dissertation includes detector testing, characterization and solar science with the Miniature X-ray Solar Spectrometer (MinXSS) CubeSats. The MinXSS CubeSats employ Silicon Drift Diode (SDD) detectors called X123, which generate full sun spectrally resolved (~0.15 FWHM at 5.9 keV) measurements of the sparsely measured, 0.5 – 12 keV range. The absolute radiometric calibration of the MinXSS instrument suite was performed at the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) Synchrotron Ultraviolet Radiation Facility (SURF) and spectral resolution determined from radioactive sources. I used MinXSS along with data from the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES), Reuven Ramaty High Energy Solar Spectroscopic Imager (RHESSI), Hinode X-ray Telescope (XRT), Hinode Extreme Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrometer (EIS) and Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) to study the solar corona. This resulted in new insights on the coronal temperature distribution and elemental abundance variations for quiescence, active regions and during solar flares.