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NASA To IMAGE Magnetosphere
News story originally written on February 19, 1999

NASA plans to launch the Imager for Magnetopause-to-Aurora Global Exploration (IMAGE) to take pictures of the Earth's magnetosphere for the first time. The mission is set to launch on February 15, 2000.

IMAGE will be put into a very elliptical orbit around the Earth. At its closest approach, it will be 600 miles above the surface. It will then swing out to almost 27,000 miles above the surface. From this vantage point, instruments on the satellite will be able to view Earth's entire magnetosphere at once.

Until this mission, scientists have only been able to infer what the magnetosphere looks like. They only have been able to take measurements of it and of its influence, such as the aurora, on Earth's upper atmosphere. IMAGE will provide a new view for scientists to study.

"Every time you figure a new way to measure your environment," said Dr. Dennis Gallagher of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, "you see things you didn't think would be there. You learn. That's what research is about. You learn more about the environment in new ways."

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