NASA release July 5, 2011
Some 50 miles up in the sky begins a dynamic region of the atmosphere known as the ionosphere. The region is filled with charged particles created by extreme ultraviolet radiation from the sun. At the base of the ionosphere, charged particle motions create a global current called the "atmospheric dynamo." Generally moving in loops from the equator to the poles, the dynamo changes daily based on solar heating and magnetic activity – but what keeps it moving isn’t well understood.
This July, scientists will launch four rockets from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, Va., for a five-minute journey some 100 miles up into the atmosphere. The rockets will collect data on the charged particles as well as winds of neutral particles that sweep through the lower ionosphere and how each affects the other, ultimately causing these dynamo currents.
A chemical trail like the one here – this one deployed from a sounding rocket at night as opposed to in the daytime – will help researchers track wind movement to determine how it affects the movement of charged particles in the atmosphere.
To read more go to: www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/sunearth/news/rockets-atmosphe…
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center enables NASA’s mission through four scientific endeavors: Earth Science, Heliophysics, Solar System Exploration, and Astrophysics. Goddard plays a leading role in NASA’s accomplishments by contributing compelling scientific knowledge to advance the Agency’s mission.
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By: NASA Goddard Photo and Video