Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Space Weather Satellite Makes First Measurements of Solar Storm Smacking Earth's Atmosphere

Date:
December 23, 1998
Source:
Marshall Space Flight Center
Summary:
As residents of the far north watched a dazzling auroral light display in late September, NASA’s Polar space weather satellite made the first measurements to show that solar activity causing the aurora directly affects Earth’s outer atmosphere. The Polar observations were reported on at the American Geophysical Union’s annual West Coast conference in San Francisco, Calif., on Dec. 8.

As residents of the far north watched a dazzling auroral light display in late September, NASA’s Polar space weather satellite made the first measurements to show that solar activity causing the aurora directly affects Earth’s outer atmosphere. The Polar observations were reported on at the American Geophysical Union’s annual West Coast conference in San Francisco, Calif., on Dec. 8.

Related Articles


“These observations will help us understand how space storms develop,” said Dr. Jim Spann, a scientist at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center Space Sciences Laboratory in Huntsville, Ala. Spann is a co-investigator on the Ultraviolet Imager, one of the instruments aboard the Polar spacecraft that measured the affects of the bubble of plasma -- electrified gas -- that collided with Earth’s atmosphere in September.

Ultimately, scientists want to forecast these storms, which can disrupt satellite communications, electric power grid operations and pipeline operations. A major storm blacked out the Canadian and American Northeast in 1989.

“This is the first time we’ve been able to observe the Sun hurling these roiling bubbles of plasma, see the storm hit Earth’s upper atmosphere, and measure the effects of low-energy oxygen and other gases being blown into space,” Spann said.

The Sun ejected the mass of hot, ionized gas on Sept. 22, 1998. At its peak from Sept. 24-25, the storm pumped about 200 gigawatts of energy into Earth’s atmosphere, causing oxygen and other gases to gush from the atmosphere into space.

“Normal values for auroral substorms are on the gigawatt levels -- emitting enough energy to run a large city for several days,” Spann said. “So, 200 gigawatts is a tremendous amount of energy.”

As Polar flew through this fountain of ionized gas, scientists confirmed that the flow of ions was caused when a storm from the Sun smacked into the Earth’s atmosphere.

The Polar Ultraviolet Imager used unique filters to take pictures of the aurora, a ghostly light show that is near Earth’s polar regions. The Ultraviolet Imager can even observe the aurora during daylight. The brightness of these images can be translated directly into how much energy is being pumped into the ionosphere, the ionized top layer of Earth’s atmosphere.

While the Ultraviolet Imager measured this explosion of auroral brightness, another Polar spacecraft instrument, the Thermal Ion Dynamics Experiment, measured the significant increase in oxygen and hydrogen ions blown from Earth’s atmosphere. The Thermal Ion Dynamics Experiment principal investigator is Dr. Thomas E. Moore of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight in Greenbelt, Md., who was formerly the chief of the Space Plasma Physics Branch at the Marshall Center. Dr. Moore and Dr. Spann discussed the Polar observations in an American Geophysical Union conference session, “Thirty Years of Ionospheric Outflow: Causes and Consequences.”

The Polar satellite is one of several geoscience spacecraft launched by NASA and other nations in a coordinated effort to study space weather -- geomagnetic substorms and other events -- in Earth’s space environment.

- 30 -

Note to Editors: For more information on the Polar spacecraft, please visit the Marshall Center’s Space Sciences Laboratory Web site at: http://www.science.nasa.gov

For more information or to arrange interviews, contact Tim Tyson with Marshall’s Media Relations Office at (256) 544-0994 or (256) 544-0034.

For an electronic version of this release or more information, visit Marshall’s News Center Web site at: http://www.msfc.nasa.gov/news

A related joint NASA Headquarters/Goddard Space Flight Center news release on the Polar results can be viewed at: ftp://pao.gsfc.nasa.gov/pub/pao/releases/1998/98-213.htm


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Marshall Space Flight Center. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Marshall Space Flight Center. "Space Weather Satellite Makes First Measurements of Solar Storm Smacking Earth's Atmosphere." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 December 1998. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/12/981222160430.htm>.
Marshall Space Flight Center. (1998, December 23). Space Weather Satellite Makes First Measurements of Solar Storm Smacking Earth's Atmosphere. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 26, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/12/981222160430.htm
Marshall Space Flight Center. "Space Weather Satellite Makes First Measurements of Solar Storm Smacking Earth's Atmosphere." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/12/981222160430.htm (accessed November 26, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Antarctic Sea Ice Mystery Thickens... Literally

Antarctic Sea Ice Mystery Thickens... Literally

Newsy (Nov. 25, 2014) — Antarctic sea ice isn't only expanding, it's thicker than previously thought, and scientists aren't sure exactly why. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
3D Map of Antarctic Sea Ice to Shed Light on Climate Change

3D Map of Antarctic Sea Ice to Shed Light on Climate Change

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Nov. 24, 2014) — A multinational group of scientists have released the first ever detailed, high-resolution 3-D maps of Antarctic sea ice. Using an underwater robot equipped with sonar, the researchers mapped the underside of a massive area of sea ice to gauge the impact of climate change. Ben Gruber reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Car Park Solution for Flexible Green Energy

Car Park Solution for Flexible Green Energy

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Nov. 24, 2014) — A British solar power start-up says that by covering millions of existing car park spaces around the UK with flexible solar panels, the country's power problems could be solved. Suzannah Butcher reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Yellow-Spotted Turtles Rescued from Trafficking

Yellow-Spotted Turtles Rescued from Trafficking

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Nov. 24, 2014) — Hundreds of Amazon River turtles released into the wild in Peru. Sharon Reich reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins