The Science and Goal
The Student Nitric Oxide Explorer (SNOE) measured nitric oxide density in the Earth's lower thermosphere (100-200 km altitude) and analyzed how the Sun and the Earth's magnetosphere affect its abundance. SNOE carried three instruments: an ultraviolet spectrometer to measure nitric oxide altitude profiles, a two-channel auroral photometer to measure auroral emissions beneath the spacecraft, and a five-channel solar soft X-ray photometer. Under the supervision of LASP and industry mentors, University of Colorado students worked on the design study, built the spacecraft and instruments, wrote the flight software, integrated and tested the instruments and subsystems, and integrated with the launch vehicle.
Nitric oxide is an important minor constituent of the upper atmosphere
that exhibits strong solar-terrestrial coupling. Nitric oxide directly
affects the composition of the ionosphere, the thermal structure of the
thermosphere, and may be transported downward into the mesosphere and stratosphere
where it can react with ozone. However, significant unanswered questions
about nitric oxide remain. The scientific objectives of the Student Nitric
Oxide Explorer are:
- To determine how variations in the solar soft X-radiation produce changes
in the density of nitric oxide in the lower thermosphere,
- To determine how auroral activity produces increased nitric oxide in
the polar regions.