Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Northern lights research enters final frontier

17.01.2007
Canadian scientists help new NASA satellite project gain a closer look at the aurora borealis

An international team of scientists -- including physicists from the University of Calgary -- will begin gathering the most detailed information yet about the ever-changing northern lights, as a multi-year research project enters its ultimate phase with the launch of five NASA satellites from Cape Canaveral next month.

Researchers in the U of C's Institute for Space Research will play a critical role in a five-satellite NASA mission called THEMIS (Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms) which is scheduled for launch at 6:07 pm (Eastern Time) on Feb. 15, just over a month from today. For their part in the program, the U of C's THEMIS team is operating a network of Ground-Based Observatories (GBOs) across Northern Canada. The THEMIS satellites will probe dynamic processes of astrophysical interest in near-Earth space, while the GBOs will create mosaics of the night sky, capturing changes in the northern lights that are an essential part of the information needed to answer the questions that THEMIS is targeting. The ground and space-based THEMIS observations will enable scientists to pinpoint the cause of brilliant explosions of shimmering light known as "auroral substorms."

"This is a very exciting moment for us because we are expecting to greatly enhance our understanding of these space disturbances that are both beautiful and powerful," said U of C physics professor Dr. Eric Donovan, leader of the Canadian component of THEMIS.

"The next few years are going to be very busy for us and our THEMIS colleagues at NASA and the University of California at Berkeley," Donovan said.

The U of C operates 16 GBOs located in communities across northern Canada (four more in Alaska are operated by Berkeley), which consist of automated all-sky cameras that use time lapse digital imaging and special optics to record auroras in the northern skies. The five satellites are on orbits designed so that they come together in conjunctions over central Canada every four days. During these conjunctions, the cameras will be used to determine the onset of auroral substorms, while instruments on the five satellites will provide measurements of changes in energetic particle populations and the magnetic field in space. The mission will last at least two years, during which time the GBOs will record more than 200 million photographs.

Auroras are caused by the interaction of charged particles from the sun, also known as the solar wind, with the Earth's magnetic field. Auroral substorms are the unpredictable bursts in auroral activity that take place when energy stored in the tail of the magnetic field is released and travel along magnetic lines to the polar regions where they cause spectacular displays of iridescent light. These storms are not fully understood and previous studies have not been able to determine where in the magnetosphere the energy of the solar wind transforms into explosive auroras. Auroral substorms have also been linked to disturbances of telecommunications systems on Earth and damage to satellites.

The NASA-funded THEMIS mission is led by the Space Science Laboratory at the University of California at Berkeley, while the Canadian component of the project is funded by the Canadian Space Agency.

In Canada, THEMIS will ultimately involve scientists with from the Universities of Alberta, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, and Calgary, Athabasca University, the Canadian Space Agency, and Natural Resources Canada.

Most of the GBOs operate in small communities in the north including Whitehorse, Inuvik, Sanikiluak, and Gillam. The GBOs are run with the generous assistance of community volunteers who help monitor and maintain the equipment.

"Our custodians do a great job of looking after the cameras and playing host to our project in their communities," said THEMIS Canada deployment and site manager Mike Greffen. "They are a critical link in a large and important NASA-CSA mission."

For more information:

THEMIS project website: http://sprg.ssl.berkeley.edu/themis
University of Calgary's THEMIS website: http://aurora.phys.ucalgary.ca/themis/
Canadian Space Agency's THEMIS website: http://www.space.gc.ca/asc/eng/sciences/themis.asp

NASA website: www.nasa.gov

Grady Semmens | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ucalgary.ca

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Turning entanglement upside down
22.05.2018 | Universität Innsbruck

nachricht Astronomers release most complete ultraviolet-light survey of nearby galaxies
18.05.2018 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: LZH showcases laser material processing of tomorrow at the LASYS 2018

At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.

At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...

Im Focus: Self-illuminating pixels for a new display generation

There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?

At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...

Im Focus: Explanation for puzzling quantum oscillations has been found

So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics

Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...

Im Focus: Dozens of binaries from Milky Way's globular clusters could be detectable by LISA

Next-generation gravitational wave detector in space will complement LIGO on Earth

The historic first detection of gravitational waves from colliding black holes far outside our galaxy opened a new window to understanding the universe. A...

Im Focus: Entangled atoms shine in unison

A team led by Austrian experimental physicist Rainer Blatt has succeeded in characterizing the quantum entanglement of two spatially separated atoms by observing their light emission. This fundamental demonstration could lead to the development of highly sensitive optical gradiometers for the precise measurement of the gravitational field or the earth's magnetic field.

The age of quantum technology has long been heralded. Decades of research into the quantum world have led to the development of methods that make it possible...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Save the date: Forum European Neuroscience – 07-11 July 2018 in Berlin, Germany

02.05.2018 | Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

Unique scope of UV LED technologies and applications presented in Berlin: ICULTA-2018

12.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Designer cells: artificial enzyme can activate a gene switch

22.05.2018 | Life Sciences

PR of MCC: Carbon removal from atmosphere unavoidable for 1.5 degree target

22.05.2018 | Earth Sciences

Achema 2018: New camera system monitors distillation and helps save energy

22.05.2018 | Trade Fair News

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>