Ionosphere Current Affairs
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) will launch two missions — GOLD and ICON later this year. They will team up to explore the ionosphere, located 96 km above Earth’s surface.
The Global-scale Observations of the Limb and Disk (GOLD) mission will be launched in January 2018 and Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) will be launched later this year.
The two missions will be complementary to each other. ICON will launched in low-Earth orbit (LEO) located at 560 km above Earth, like a close-up camera. GOLD will be launched in geostationary orbit over Western Hemisphere, about 35,398 km above earth. It will help in full-disk view of ionosphere and upper atmosphere beneath it every half hour.
The two missions can cooperate with each other when ICON passes through GOLD’s field of view and each mission can get snapshot of same region. This overlap in their data will make it easier to identify reasons for changes in upper atmosphere at a given time.
One of missions’ goals is to measure how upper atmosphere changes in response to hurricanes and geomagnetic storms. GOLD will also explore how upper atmosphere reacts to geomagnetic storms, which are temporary disturbances of Earth’s magnetic field caused by solar activity.
At night, GOLD will examine disruptions in ionosphere, which are mainly dense, unpredictable bubbles of charged gas that appear over equator and tropics, sometimes interfere with radio communications.
The ionosphere is located between 60 and 400 km above the mesopause. It contains electrically charged particles known as ions, and hence, it is known as ionosphere. Radio waves transmitted from the earth are reflected back to the earth by this layer and is used for radio propagation to distant places on the Earth. In this layer temperature starts increasing with height.
The NASA has successfully launched Terrier-Improved Malemute sounding rocket that created colourful artificial clouds visible in the skies of the US. The rocket was launched from its Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.
The rocket during the 8-minute flight had released 10 canisters about the size of a soft drink into space. It was ejected about 9 to 19 kilometres away from the 300-kg main payload.
The canisters deployed blue-green and red vapour that formed artificial clouds visible in the skies of the United States from New York to North Carolina. The artificial clouds are formed through the interaction of barium, strontium and cupric-oxide. The vapour tracers will help in understanding the movement of the particles in the ionosphere. It will help to learn more about the movement of the air currents at that altitude.
The artificial clouds or vapour tracers will help in understanding the movement of the particles in the ionosphere. It will help to learn more about the movement of the air currents at that altitude. They will permit scientists on the ground to visually track particle motions in space. The multi-canister ejection system will also help scientists to gather information over a much larger area than previously possible. Sounding rockets have been in use for more than 40 years to carry science payloads on scientific missions that usually last five to 20 minutes.
Sounding rockets have been in use for more than 40 years to carry science payloads on scientific missions that usually last five to 20 minutes.
The ionosphere is called so because it is ionised by solar radiation. It plays an important part in atmospheric electricity and forms the inner edge of the magnetosphere. Ionosphere stretches from 50 to 1,000 km and typically overlaps both the exosphere and the thermosphere. It has practical importance because it influences, for example, radio propagation on the Earth. It is also responsible for auroras.