IMAGE Shows off its Best Stuff!
There has been a lot of exciting news about space missions in the last
week! The International Space Station is soon to have visitors, NEAR will
land on an asteroid soon and the IMAGE spacecraft has been showing off
its best stuff!
News story originally written on February 5, 2001
The IMAGE (Imager for Magnetopause -to- Aurora Global Exploration) spacecraft was launched on March 25, 2000. IMAGE has been studying the Earth's magnetosphere, the region about the Earth that contains the Earth's magnetic field. IMAGE is the first spacecraft to actually "see" the charged particles that make up the magnetic field surrounding Earth. Just recently, pictures like the one to the left were released. These pictures show the Earth's magnetosphere including a tail-like structure. A magnetotail had been predicted over 30 years ago, but confirmation was left until now.
IMAGE has six instruments onboard that work together to photograph the plasma captured in the magnetosphere. They make it possible to "see" a lot of the magnetosphere at one time, in different wavelengths. "IMAGE is providing for the first time global views of the Earth's charged-particle populations at multiple wavelengths and energies on time scales of a few minutes, which is sufficient to track the dynamics of the magnetosphere," said Dr. James Burch, IMAGE Principal Investigator.
of the Earth acts as a shield against the possibly dangerous solar wind
particles that flow from the Sun. That is why the magnetosphere is shaped
like a tear-drop - the solar wind pushes and distorts it into this shape.
But sometimes, explosive events on the Sun can charge the magnetosphere
with energy that causes geomagnetic storms. These storms can have
effects like causing the auroral lights or they can have severe effects like
damaging satellites or power grids on Earth. So, the IMAGE mission is
essential in studying and coming up with ways to forecast space weather
which affects life on Earth.