Our universe is illuminated by all kinds of light and by looking at the different colors in the electromagnetic spectrum we can investigate places near and far. The GOLD mission is a NASA mission of opportunity aboard the SES-14 satellite that views the Earth in the far ultraviolet wavelengths. It provides an unprecedented new data set for expanding our understanding of the upper atmosphere of Earth.
From these measurements we can determine the temperature and composition of the atmosphere near 160 km every half hour. These images allow us to explore the short-term “weather” and long-term “climate” of this region of our environment, a region that has critical impacts on communications and navigation, such as GPS.
This is also a region where atmospheric tides and waves from lower altitudes dissipate their energy and where the solar and geomagnetic changes can cause dramatic changes in the space environment.
Daily observations from GOLD began in October 2018, following commissioning of the instrument. In this presentation, GOLD research scientist, Katelynn Greer, will provide an overview of the GOLD mission science and examples of observations from early operations.
In the wake of an unfortunate event, two University of Colorado Boulder (CU) graduate students have accomplished a remarkable feat in space science: they’ve designed and built a new satellite instrument in less than three months.
Bennet Schwab, a graduate student in the Department of Aerospace Engineering Sciences, and Robert Sewell, a graduate student in the Department of Physics, have been on an emotional roller coaster ride over the past few months. One extended peak in that ride came during the preparation and launch of the NASA Miniature X-ray Solar Spectrometer, or MinXSS-2, CubeSat on December 3, 2018, and the subsequent successful observations of X-rays from the Sun. This initial success was soon followed by a setback, when there was a loss of communication with the CubeSat on January 7, 2019.
In one of the spacecraft operations centers inside LASP’s Space Technology Building, a woman’s calm voice pipes in over a speaker:
“Loss of signal, MMS-4,” the voice reports.
The room looks like a smaller version of the NASA flight control centers that show up in every space movie. The announcement is a routine cue that one of the four spacecraft that make up the Magnetospheric MultiScale (MMS) mission has finished its latest round of transmitting data back to Earth.
Often the first person to hear such alerts isn’t a grizzled mission control veteran, but rather a CU Boulder student. That’s because LASP employs student “command controllers” to help operate the space missions under its supervision.
LASP scientists spent the first hours of 2019 in a Maryland operations center watching NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft shoot past a minor planet more than 4 billion miles from Earth—the farthest object that any spacecraft has ever explored.
That icy object, an elongated body about 19 miles tall, is called 2014 MU69 or Ultima Thule, a Latin phrase that means “beyond the known world.”
CU Boulder researchers and students are playing an important role in this brush with the unknown, which took place on Jan. 1. As New Horizons zips through the outermost regions of our solar system, it will collect and analyze specks of dust using an instrument designed by students at LASP.