Feeds

Mission to map the Aurorae launches 26 July

Sino-European co-operative

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Intelligent flash storage arrays

The final piece of a six-satellite constellation will blast into space on 26 July. Taking off from Taiyuan spaceport, west of Beijing, on a Chinese Long March 2C rocket, the Tan Ce 2 satellite will join Tan Ce 1, and the four Cluster satellites in an investigation of our magnetosphere.

Tan Ce 2 (Explorer 2) is the second craft built for the Double Star programme. Together with Cluster, a group of four satellites launched in 2000, Double Star will be at the disposal of a group of Sino-European researchers who hope to discover more about what happens inside magnetic storms high above the atmosphere. It is the first Chinese mission dedicated to space science.

The orbits of the six craft have been calculated so that all six will be on the night side of the Earth at various times throughout August and September. This region is known as the magnetotail. The six craft will be stacked in orbit at different distances from Earth, an arrangement scientists hope will reveal where it is in the magnetosphere that the storms begin.

During the onset of a storm, large bursts of energy are released from the magnetosphere in a process called magnetic reconnection. This is the process that, in the Sun, is thought to give rise to solar flares. In our magnetosphere, scientists suspect it is a precursor to auroral sub storms: the beautiful displays of Northern and Southern lights. However, the exact origin of these storms has never been confirmed.

Mission scientists say they are hopeful that data from Cluster and Double Star will provide the most detailed, multi-dimensional view of the complex magnetosphere ever obtained, and provide answers to the question about the origin of the Auroral sub storms.

The team is racing against time: NASA has a mission, called THEMIS, scheduled for launch in Autumn 2006 designed to investigate the same question. The ESA also has a mission schedule to investigate the magnetic field, athough it won't get off the gound until 2009.

The Double Star duo is scientifically important on its own as well: it will provides new measurements in key regions of magnetosphere. However, according to one of the principal investigators on the mission, Andrew Fazakerley (MSSL-UCL), the really exciting part is the data it will gather when it joins Cluster in its formation dance above the clouds.

"When Cluster is in the distant magnetic tail and Double Star is in the near tail, we shall be able to see simultaneously for the first time what happens in both of these key regions when the huge amounts of energy that drive the substorms are released," he said. ®

Related stories

US and EU kiss and make up over Galileo
ESA to probe Earth's magnetic field
Satellites to benefit from exploding eggshells

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
SECRET U.S. 'SPACE WARPLANE' set to return from SPY MISSION
Robot minishuttle X-37B returns after almost 2 years in orbit
No sail: NASA spikes Sunjammer
'Solar sail' demonstrator project binned
LOHAN crash lands on CNN
Overflies Die Welt en route to lively US news vid
You can crunch it all you like, but the answer is NOT always in the data
Hear that, 'data journalists'? Our analytics prof holds forth
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
Origins of SEXUAL INTERCOURSE fished out of SCOTTISH LAKE
Fossil find proves it first happened 385 million years ago
America's super-secret X-37B plane returns to Earth after nearly TWO YEARS aloft
674 days in space for US Air Force's mystery orbital vehicle
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.