Tag Archives: magnetosphere

Scientists’ discovery of zebra stripes in space resolves a half-century mystery

Study by UCLA researchers and others could explain mysterious plasma waves in space

In the 1960s, NASA launched six satellites to study the Earth’s atmosphere, magnetosphere and the space between Earth and the moon. Using observations from those satellites, Christopher Russell, a UCLA graduate student at the time, detected mysterious plasma waves in the Van Allen radiation belts, the donut-shaped rings surrounding the Earth that contain high-energy particles trapped by the planet’s magnetic field. (more…)

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NASA’s Voyager 1 Explores Final Frontier of Our ‘Solar Bubble’

PASADENA, Calif. — Data from Voyager 1, now more than 11 billion miles (18 billion kilometers) from the sun, suggest the spacecraft is closer to becoming the first human-made object to reach interstellar space.

Research using Voyager 1 data and published in the journal Science today provides new detail on the last region the spacecraft will cross before it leaves the heliosphere, or the bubble around our sun, and enters interstellar space. Three papers describe how Voyager 1’s entry into a region called the magnetic highway resulted in simultaneous observations of the highest rate so far of charged particles from outside heliosphere and the disappearance of charged particles from inside the heliosphere. (more…)

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‘Tis the Season — for Plasma Changes at Saturn

Researchers working with data from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft have discovered one way the bubble of charged particles around Saturn — known as the magnetosphere — changes with the planet’s seasons. The finding provides an important clue for solving a riddle about the planet’s naturally occurring radio signal. The results might also help scientists better understand variations in Earth’s magnetosphere and Van Allen radiation belts, which affect a variety of activities at Earth, ranging from space flight safety to satellite and cell phone communications.

The paper, just published in the Journal of Geophysical Research, is led by Tim Kennelly, an undergraduate physics and astronomy major at the University of Iowa, Iowa City, who is working with Cassini’s radio and plasma wave science team. (more…)

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Space Weather Forecast: Sunspotty, With an Increasing Chance of Solar Storms

The past few months have seen a spate of solar flares – bringing spectacular views of the northern lights as far south as Seattle – along with media speculation that the electrical activity could disrupt power grids, satellites or ground airplanes.

John Sahr, a UW professor of electrical engineering who studies the upper atmosphere, is the regional go-to guy for such questions. We found some time in Sahr’s busy schedule (he’s also the UW’s associate dean of undergraduate academic affairs and a part-time zombie hunter) to get his read on the space weather forecast. (more…)

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UCLA Astronomers Solve Mystery of Vanishing Electrons

*Findings further efforts to better predict geomagnetic storms in space*

UCLA researchers have explained the puzzling disappearing act of energetic electrons in Earth’s outer radiation belt, using data collected from a fleet of orbiting spacecraft.

In a paper published Jan. 29 in the advance online edition of the journal Nature Physics, the team shows that the missing electrons are swept away from the planet by a tide of solar wind particles during periods of heightened solar activity. (more…)

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Charles P. Sonett: the Legacy of a Pioneering Space Scientist

*Charles P. Sonett, the first head of the UA’s department of planetary sciences, died at the age of 87. Sonett was involved in spacecraft missions that dramatically advanced our understanding of the solar system and beyond, including the Pioneer Program, the Explorer Program and the Apollo Program.*

Charles “Chuck” P. Sonett, a founding faculty member and the first department head of the University of Arizona’s department of planetary sciences, died on Sept. 30. He was 87.

As a space exploration pioneer, Sonett was involved in numerous spacecraft programs, including the Pioneer Program, the Explorer Program and the Apollo Program – missions that dramatically advanced our understanding of the solar system, its planets and moons and beyond. (more…)

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Extreme Space Weather at Mercury Blasts the Planet’s Poles

ANN ARBOR, Mich.— The solar wind sandblasts the surface of planet Mercury at its poles, according to new data from a University of Michigan instrument on board NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft.

The sodium and oxygen particles the blistering solar wind kicks up are the primary components of Mercury’s wispy atmosphere, or “exosphere,” the new findings assert. Through interacting with the solar wind, they become charged in a mechanism that’s similar to the one that generates the Aurora Borealis on Earth. (more…)

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