Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Cluster spacecraft takes first look at charged particles that drive brightest aurora

Date:
April 13, 2010
Source:
Royal Astronomical Society (RAS)
Summary:
Scientists have made the first direct observations of charged particles that lead to some of the brightest aurora using the Cluster spacecraft.

Image of the auroral oval taken by the IMAGE spacecraft in ultraviolet.
Credit: IMAGE-FUV team/NASA

Using the Cluster spacecraft, scientists from University College London (UCL) have made the first direct observations of charged particles that lead to some of the brightest aurora.

Dr Colin Forsyth presented the results at the RAS National Astronomy Meeting (NAM2010) in Glasgow on April 12.

The aurora, or northern and southern lights, are caused by highly energetic charged particles, normally held in space by Earth's magnetic field, colliding with Earth's upper atmosphere. As these high-energy particles collide with molecules in the atmosphere they lose energy, causing the atmospheric molecules to glow and heating the atmosphere. The result of is spectacular displays of shimmering curtains of red, green and blue light normally seen above the polar regions, but occasionally seen as far south as northern England.

Despite their frequent occurrence, there are still many questions regarding the physical processes behind the aurora. The particles that excite the aurora are accelerated up to high energies in a region extending to around 50 000 km (31 000 miles) above the atmosphere. By understanding the accelerating processes in this region, scientists hope to further understand the aurora.

Launched in 2000, the joint European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA Cluster mission consists of four identical spacecraft flying in a close formation around the Earth. Each spacecraft carries a suite of instruments to study the charged particles and electromagnetic fields in the space environment around the Earth known as the magnetosphere. The multi-point perspective of the Cluster spacecraft allows scientists build up a 3D picture of the magnetosphere.

Dr. Colin Forsyth has been leading an international team hoping to directly measure the acceleration of charged particles above the aurora. At NAM2010, Dr. Forsyth will present data from the Plasma Electron And Currents Experiment (PEACE), built by UCL's Mullard Space Science Laboratory, showing this acceleration in action.

"The Cluster spacecraft have been manoeuvred such that one of them was at a higher altitude than the others when they passed over the auroral regions" said Dr. Forsyth. "We were then able to simultaneously measure the particle energies at different heights and thus their acceleration. These exciting new results will give us new insight into the accelerating processes and the transfer of energy from the magnetosphere into the atmosphere."

These new observations are the first step in understanding the processes behind the aurora and its impact on the atmosphere. Dr. Forsyth and his team aim to link these and similar observations to observations of large-scale processes in the magnetosphere and detected on the ground in the auroral regions. This could be a key factor in understanding how energy from the magnetosphere affects Earth's atmosphere.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Royal Astronomical Society (RAS). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Royal Astronomical Society (RAS). "Cluster spacecraft takes first look at charged particles that drive brightest aurora." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 April 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/04/100412084547.htm>.
Royal Astronomical Society (RAS). (2010, April 13). Cluster spacecraft takes first look at charged particles that drive brightest aurora. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/04/100412084547.htm
Royal Astronomical Society (RAS). "Cluster spacecraft takes first look at charged particles that drive brightest aurora." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/04/100412084547.htm (accessed August 21, 2014).

Share This




More Space & Time News

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Space to Ground: Hello Georges

Space to Ground: Hello Georges

NASA (Aug. 18, 2014) Europe's ATV-5 delivers new science and the crew tests smart SPHERES. Questions or comments? Use #spacetoground to talk to us. Video provided by NASA
Powered by NewsLook.com
Tiny Satellites, Like The One Tossed From ISS, On The Rise

Tiny Satellites, Like The One Tossed From ISS, On The Rise

Newsy (Aug. 18, 2014) The Chasqui I, hand-delivered into orbit by a Russian cosmonaut, is one of hundreds of small satellites set to go up in the next few years. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
This Week @ NASA, August 15, 2014

This Week @ NASA, August 15, 2014

NASA (Aug. 15, 2014) Carbon Observatory’s First Data, ATV-5 Delivers Cargo, Cygnus Departs Station and more... Video provided by NASA
Powered by NewsLook.com
Space Shuttle Replica Hoisted for Landmark Exhibit

Space Shuttle Replica Hoisted for Landmark Exhibit

Reuters - US Online Video (Aug. 14, 2014) The space shuttle replica Independence has been hoisted atop Space Center Houston's shuttle carrier aircraft, creating a monument to the shuttle program which will open to the public next year. 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:
from the past week

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