The US space agency NASA most often publishes news and plans related to the study of other planets and other objects of the solar system. Also, astronomers are actively exploring deep space, including the most distant objects from the Earth. But for humanity it is important to know about the near space. It is about the area of space, which is located at a distance of 60-1000 km from the surface of our planet, that is, about the ionosphere.
NASA is going to launch two satellites at once, which will explore this region. Already this month, the agency will launch the GOLD system (Global-Scale Observations of the Limb and Disk), and some time later - a space probe to study the ionosphere Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON). Experts, first of all, are interested in the processes occurring during the interaction of the external layer of the Earth’s atmosphere and with external space.
These data astronomers (and not only they) have long been willing to receive. The systems referred to above will help to learn more about the near space, providing the necessary information. In principle, we are talking more about the Earth’s ionosphere than about space, and, in general, scientists are going to explore the ionosphere. The obtained data will help to understand how much the Sun influences the state of the ionosphere and lower layers of the Earth’s atmosphere.It looks like the system GOLD
tells us, the ionosphere, in its general meaning, is a layer of the planet’s atmosphere, which is highly ionized due to the irradiation of cosmic rays. On Earth, the ionosphere is the upper part of the atmosphere. In our planet, the ionosphere consists of a mixture of gas of neutral atoms and molecules. Basically, it is nitrogen N2 and oxygen O2. Also one of the components of the Earth’s ionosphere is quasineutral plasma. The ionization of the atmosphere becomes significant already at a distance of 60 kilometers from the surface.
“We really want to study the effects of the effects of solar radiation on Earth, as well as other effects. The ionosphere is an extremely dynamic region, ”says Sarah Jones, one of the members of the GOLD project team. The device itself does not exceed the size of the microwave, and it will be placed on board a much larger spacecraft - a commercial satellite SES-14. The cost of the entire GOLD mission is estimated at $ 55 million.
Now the satellite has already been delivered to Kourou, the cosmodrome in French Guiana. It will be launched on January 25 with the help of the Ariane 5 launch vehicle. Upon reaching the geostationary orbit, the satellite will begin to move to a higher geostationary stable orbit at a distance of about 35,000 km from the Earth's surface. From here, the apparatus will begin to monitor the western hemisphere of the planet. The main scientific instrument of GOLD is an ultraviolet spectrograph. Thanks to him, it will be possible to find out the temperature, density and structure of the ionosphere at each particular moment of observation. The spectrograph will be included every 30 minutes, so that the dynamics of the ionosphere will be studied as fully as possible.
At present, it is rather difficult for scientists to predict the behavior of the ionosphere, therefore, it is planned to launch such a scientific instrument into space.
Changes in the ionosphere are not just a matter of purely academic science. The state of the ionosphere depends on the transmission of radio waves on Earth. Sometimes the configuration of this area of space varies considerably, which affects the radio waves. Understanding the dynamics of the ionosphere will improve the communication systems of ships and aircraft, and not only them.
As for ICON, this device will examine the phenomena found in the GOLD ionosphere. Thanks to the work of both devices, NASA scientists are planning to get a detailed picture of the state of the ionosphere by 2020 and predict its dynamics. An interferometer and other scientific instruments will work on board the ICON. ICON will also work on Earth's orbit around the Earth, at a distance of about 560 km from its surface. The system of two spacecraft is a great opportunity to make a detailed picture of the behavior of the ionosphere under the influence of external (Sun) and internal (weather conditions, etc.) factors.