Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Discovering Exactly Where The Northern Lights Originate

Date:
March 15, 2007
Source:
DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Summary:
Instruments known as solid-state telescopes (SSTs), built with detectors fabricated at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and carried aboard the recently launched THEMIS mission, have delivered their first data on how charged particles in the solar wind interact with Earth's magnetic field to shape the planet's magnetosphere.

THEMIS consists of five spacecraft, studying the conditions in Earth's magnetosphere that spark disturbances in the auroras.
Credit: Berkeley Lab: U.S. Department of Energy

Instruments known as solid-state telescopes (SSTs), built with detectors fabricated at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and carried aboard the recently launched THEMIS mission, have delivered their first data on how charged particles in the solar wind interact with Earth's magnetic field to shape the planet's magnetosphere.

Related Articles


THEMIS's principal investigator is Vassilis Angelopoulos of the University of California at Berkeley's Space Sciences Laboratory (SSL), which is leading the mission for NASA and which designed and built the instruments in collaboration with agencies in Germany, France, and Austria.

The first NASA mission comprised of five different coordinated spacecraft, all five THEMIS spacecraft were launched from Cape Canaveral together aboard a single rocket on February 17, 2007. Eventually the five will study the mysterious eruptions in Earth's Northern and Southern Lights known as "substorms," but first they must achieve widely separated orbits, a process that will take several months.

An acronym for Time History of Events and Macroscopic Interactions during Substorms, THEMIS will obtain the evidence needed to solve what principal investigator Angelopoulos calls "a nagging question that the field has to resolve" — namely, competing theories about where auroral substorms originate in the magnetosphere.

As one of several instrument systems carried aboard the five THEMIS spacecraft, the solid-state telescopes will gather some of the most important evidence. The SSTs' job is to measure the energy distribution of electrons and ions (charged atoms and atomic nuclei) arriving at each spacecraft from different parts of the sky. To do this, the SSTs use custom-built silicon diode detectors made in Berkeley Lab's Microsystems Laboratory by Craig Tindall, Steve Holland, and Nick Palaio of the Engineering Division.

These large-area detectors have very thin contacts, only a few hundred angstroms thick. This allows them to detect electrons and ions with energies much lower than those that can be detected with standard silicon detectors, giving the SSTs the ability to cover a wide energy range, from high to low. But because the contacts are so thin, making a sufficient quantity of the large detectors posed a significant challenge.

Says Tindall, "Berkeley Lab's Microsystems Laboratory provided advanced equipment and processes in an ultraclean environment, enabling the fabrication of these detectors with high yield."  

Using the finished detectors, UC Berkeley's Davin Larson directed assembly of the solid-state telescopes at SSL. Each SST is based on four detectors; two SSTs mounted side by side and pointing in opposite directions form a unit, and two units are mounted on each spacecraft, for a total of 80 silicon diode detectors flown aboard the five spacecraft.

Berkeley Lab has a long history of creating and fabricating innovative detectors, beginning with detectors for high-energy particle experiments in accelerators and recently including detectors for space missions like STEREO, NASA's twin Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatories, launched in 2006; the Spitzer Space Telescope, launched in 2004; and RHESSI, the Ramaty High Energy Solar Spectroscopic Imager, launched in 2002.

Tindall and Palaio made detectors for the IMPACT instrument suite aboard STEREO using the same process as the THEMIS detectors; these are currently returning data on energetic solar particles.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. "Discovering Exactly Where The Northern Lights Originate." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 March 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/03/070314153129.htm>.
DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. (2007, March 15). Discovering Exactly Where The Northern Lights Originate. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 21, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/03/070314153129.htm
DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. "Discovering Exactly Where The Northern Lights Originate." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/03/070314153129.htm (accessed April 21, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Space & Time News

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Hubble Marks 25th Birthday as Successor Readies for Launch

Hubble Marks 25th Birthday as Successor Readies for Launch

AFP (Apr. 20, 2015) — With the Hubble Space Telescope celebrating its 25th anniversary on April 24, 2015, AFPTV takes a look at Hubble&apos;s control room and gets a sneak peek inside the space center assembling the James Webb Telescope - Hubble&apos;s successor. Duration: 02:52 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Rocket Science: Building And Testing The Space Launch System

Rocket Science: Building And Testing The Space Launch System

Newsy (Apr. 19, 2015) — NASA&apos;s new rocket system will eventually be the most powerful ever built by man, but there are a lot of moving parts to test first. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
2015 NASA Rover Challenge Underway in Alabama

2015 NASA Rover Challenge Underway in Alabama

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Apr. 19, 2015) — Teams face an uphill battle for fastest rover in this year&apos;s NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge in Alabama. Julie Noce reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
International Space Station Captures SpaceX Dragon Spacecraft

International Space Station Captures SpaceX Dragon Spacecraft

Reuters - News Video Online (Apr. 17, 2015) — SpaceX&apos;s Dragon spacecraft reaches the International Space Station and is successfully captured by the station&apos;s robotic arm. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). 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

 

Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

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