Feeds

NASA to demystify atmospheric storms

Mission launching in February

Remote control for virtualized desktops

NASA is preparing to launch a new mission to learn more about the causes of atmospheric substorms. A substorm is a period of intense geomagnetic activity, visible to observers as a sudden brightening of the polar aurorae.

The storms might be visible to us, but scientists don't really understand what triggers them. What is known is that the Northern lights suddenly brighten when floods of highly charged electrons race down the Earth's magnetic field lines and hit the upper atmosphere. The electrons are accelerated when energy from the solar wind, stored in the Earth's magnetosphere, is "explosively released".

Scientists don't understand exactly what triggers the energy release, which is where the THEMIS (Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms) mission comes in.

THEMIS is a constellation of five satellites that NASA plans to put into orbit in mid-February this year. Once spinning above us in their proper formation, they will collect coordinated measurements every four days. NASA expects the satellites will collect data from more than 30 substorms during the mission's scheduled two year lifespan.

"A substorm starts from a single point in space and progresses past the moon's orbit within minutes, so a single satellite cannot identify the substorm origin. The five-satellite constellation of THEMIS will finally identify the trigger location and the physics involved in substorms," said Vassilis Angelopoulos, THEMIS' principal investigator at the University of California, Berkeley's Space Sciences Laboratory.

He says the source of the energy releases is "a question almost as old as space physics itself". ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Renewable energy 'simply WON'T WORK': Top Google engineers
Windmills, solar, tidal - all a 'false hope', say Stanford PhDs
SEX BEAST SEALS may be egging each other on to ATTACK PENGUINS
Boffin: 'I think the behaviour is increasing in frequency'
HUMAN DNA 'will be FOUND ON MOON' – rockin' boffin Brian Cox
Crowdfund plan to stimulate Blighty's space programme
Post-pub nosh neckfiller: The MIGHTY Scotch egg
Off to the boozer? This delicacy might help mitigate the effects
I'M SO SORRY, sobs Rosetta Brit boffin in 'sexist' sexy shirt storm
'He is just being himself' says proud mum of larger-than-life physicist
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
prev story

Whitepapers

Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Simplify SSL certificate management across the enterprise
Simple steps to take control of SSL across the enterprise, and recommendations for a management platform for full visibility and single-point of control for these Certificates.
Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile
Data demand and the rise of virtualization is challenging IT teams to deliver storage performance, scalability and capacity that can keep up, while maximizing efficiency.