Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Bright Arctic clouds formed by exhaust from final space shuttle launch

Date:
August 28, 2012
Source:
Naval Research Laboratory
Summary:
Scientists are tracking the rapid transport of the exhaust plume from the final launch of the space shuttle in July 2011. The team has found that the plume moved quickly to the Arctic, forming unusually bright polar mesospheric clouds there a day after launch.

The Cloud Imaging and Particle Size experiment on NASA's Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere satellite observes PMCs about ten times brighter than usual over Scandanvia the day after launch of STS-135. Water vapor exhaust from the shuttle and other rockets may have led to significant PMC production of the past three decades, complicating the use of PMC occurrence as an indicator of upper atmospheric climate change.
Credit: U.S. Naval Research Laboratory

Naval Research Laboratory scientist Dr. Michael Stevens is leading an international consortium of scientists in tracking the rapid transport of the exhaust plume from the final launch of the space shuttle in July 2011. The team has found that the plume moved quickly to the Arctic, forming unusually bright polar mesospheric clouds (PMCs) there a day after launch.

Related Articles


Understanding the rapid transport of high altitude exhaust plumes near 105 km is providing new insight into the effects of winds at the bottom edge of the space weather regime towards improved forecasts of the co-located E-region of the ionosphere. This knowledge is critical for improving models of communication signal propagation and over-the-horizon-radar, explains Dr. Stevens, a Research Physicist in NRL's Space Science Division. Current theories suggest that the plumes are rapidly transported because of narrow, high-speed wind shears. These wind shears are also linked to the occurrence of so-called Sporadic E events, thus establishing a possible link between plume transport and the lower ionosphere.

During every launch, the space shuttle injects about 350 tons of water vapor from its three main engines off the east coast of the United States between 100 and 115 km altitude. Many studies have now shown that the poleward transport of this water vapor is much faster than global-scale models predict, and a few have furthermore shown that bursts of PMCs near 83 km altitude can result. These observations are forcing researchers to reexamine their understanding of global wind patterns in the lower thermosphere.

The long-term PMC record is also likely to be modified by increased space traffic, which is important because PMCs have been implicated as indicators of upper atmospheric climate change, explains Dr. Stevens. By assembling a suite of satellite and ground-based observations following the space shuttle's final launch, the NRL-led research team has revealed the nature of these shuttle clouds for the first time. The observations from both European and American collaborators show not only the rapid poleward transport of the plume and ensuing PMC formation, but that shuttle clouds are brighter than over 99% of all other PMCs and that the ice particles are larger at higher altitudes, which is the opposite of conventional models.

By allowing researchers to distinguish the shuttle PMCs from more typical clouds, these results will ultimately enable a search of the historical record to separate the anthropogenic PMCs from the natural PMCs.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Naval Research Laboratory. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Michael H. Stevens, Lance E. Deaver, Mark E. Hervig, James M. Russell, David E. Siskind, Patrick E. Sheese, Edward J. Llewellyn, Richard L. Gattinger, Josef Hφffner, B. T. Marshall. Validation of upper mesospheric and lower thermospheric temperatures measured by the Solar Occultation for Ice Experiment. Journal of Geophysical Research, 2012; 117 (D16) DOI: 10.1029/2012JD017689

Cite This Page:

Naval Research Laboratory. "Bright Arctic clouds formed by exhaust from final space shuttle launch." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 August 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120828135103.htm>.
Naval Research Laboratory. (2012, August 28). Bright Arctic clouds formed by exhaust from final space shuttle launch. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120828135103.htm
Naval Research Laboratory. "Bright Arctic clouds formed by exhaust from final space shuttle launch." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120828135103.htm (accessed October 30, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Antares Liftoff Explosion

Raw: Antares Liftoff Explosion

AP (Oct. 29, 2014) — Observers near Wallops Island recorded what they thought would be a routine rocket launch Tuesday night. What they recorded was a major rocket explosion shortly after lift off. (Oct 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Russian Cargo Ship Docks at Space Station

Raw: Russian Cargo Ship Docks at Space Station

AP (Oct. 29, 2014) — Just hours after an American cargo run to the International Space Station ended in flames, a Russian supply ship has arrived at the station with a load of fresh supplies. (Oct. 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Journalist Captures Moment of Antares Rocket Explosion

Journalist Captures Moment of Antares Rocket Explosion

Reuters - US Online Video (Oct. 29, 2014) — A space education journalist is among those who witness and record the explosion of an unmanned Antares rocket seconds after its launch. Rough Cut (no reporter narration) Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Rocket Explosion Under Investigation

Rocket Explosion Under Investigation

AP (Oct. 28, 2014) — NASA and Orbital Sciences officials say they are investigating the explosion of an unmanned commercial supply rocket bound for the International Space Station. It blew up moments after liftoff Tuesday evening over the launch site in Virginia. (Oct. 28) Video provided by AP
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:

More Coverage


Tracking Shuttle Exhaust Reveals More Information About Atmospheric Winds

Aug. 28, 2012 — As a shuttle plume spread and floated on air currents high in Earth's atmosphere, it crossed through the observation paths of seven separate sets of instruments. A group of scientists tracked ... read more

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