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Five Satellites To Be Launched Next Month To Observe Auroras

By | January 22, 2007

      NASA’s THEMIS, the Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms mission, is set to venture into space and help resolve the mystery of what triggers geomagnetic substorms.

      THEMIS’ five identical probes will be the largest number of scientific satellites NASA has ever launched into orbit aboard a single rocket.

      For the first time, scientists will get a comprehensive view of the substorm phenomena from Earth’s upper atmosphere to far into space, pinpointing where and when each substorm begins.

      Substorms are atmospheric events visible in the northern hemisphere as a sudden brightening of the Northern Lights. THEMIS also will provide clues about the role of substorms in severe space weather and identify where and when substorms begin.

      This unique constellation of satellites will line up along the sun-Earth line, collect coordinated measurements every four days, and be ready to observe more than 30 substorms during the two-year mission. Data collected from the five probes will pinpoint where and when substorms begin, a feat impossible with any previous single-satellite mission.

      The five-satellite constellation of THEMIS will finally identify the trigger location and the physics involved in substorms.

      THEMIS is set to launch in mid-February aboard a Delta II rocket from Launch Complex 17-B at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.

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