NASA Magnetic Field Mission Ends

Jan 23, 2006

NASA's Imager for Magnetopause-to-Aurora Global Exploration (IMAGE) satellite recently ceased operations, bringing to a close a successful six-year mission. IMAGE was the premier producer of new discoveries on the structure and dynamics of the Earth's external magnetic field (magnetosphere) and its contents.

"The IMAGE mission showed us space around the Earth is anything but empty, and that plasma clouds can be imaged and tracked just as we do from space for Earth’s surface weather,” said Barbara Giles, IMAGE Program Scientist at NASA headquarters.

Prior to the launch of IMAGE, the energetic particles and electrically charged gas (plasma) surrounding the Earth were completely invisible to human observers. IMAGE enabled researchers to study the global structure and dynamics of the Earth's inner magnetosphere as it responded to energy from solar winds.

"Nearly six years of imagery by the pioneering cameras on IMAGE revolutionized our understanding of geospace and our knowledge of its space weather," said James Burch, IMAGE principal investigator at the Southwest Research Institute, San Antonio.

IMAGE was launched on March 25, 2000. It successfully completed its two-year primary mission and continued providing data into December 2005, when it stopped responding to commands from ground controllers. Preliminary analysis indicated the craft's power supply subsystems failed, rendering it lifeless. The satellite is in an extended elliptical orbit and poses no threat to the planet.

IMAGE discoveries have been reported in more than 400 peer-reviewed publications. More than 20 Ph.D. theses were based on data from the mission. Science highlights include:

-- Confirmations: plasma plume creation, post-midnight peak in storm plasmas, the neutral solar wind, terrestrial origin of geospace storm plasmas and continuous nature of magnetic reconnection.

-- Discoveries: plasmaspheric shoulders and notches, proton auroras in unexpected places, surprisingly slow plasmasphere rotation, a hot oxygen geocorona and a secondary interstellar neutral atom stream.

-- Resolutions: the source of kilometric continuum radiation, solar- wind and auroral intensity effects on ionospheric out flow and the relationship between proton and electron auroras during geospace storms.

The IMAGE education and public outreach program received numerous awards for videos, books, primary and secondary school curricula, teacher training, museum exhibits, planetarium shows, student workbooks and web-based information.

The extensive archival database generated by IMAGE promises to yield new discoveries and will support investigations by other spacecraft and ground-based observatories for many years.

Source: NASA

Explore further: SpinSat and things that slither splashdown with end of sixth SpaceX mission

Related Stories

SpaceX cargo ship begins journey back to Earth (Update)

May 21, 2015

SpaceX's unmanned Dragon supply ship left the International Space Station Thursday and began its journey back to Earth where it will splash down in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of California, NASA said.

OSIRIS discovers balancing rock on 67P

May 19, 2015

Scientists from Rosetta's OSIRIS team have discovered an extraordinary formation on the larger lobe of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in the Aker region. From a group of three boulders the largest one with ...

Recommended for you

Image: Europa's Jupiter-facing hemisphere

1 hour ago

This 12-frame mosaic provides the highest resolution view ever obtained of the side of Jupiter's moon Europa that faces the giant planet. It was obtained on Nov. 25, 1999 by the camera onboard the Galileo ...

A bubbly cosmic celebration

2 hours ago

In the brightest region of the nebula RCW 34, gas is heated and expands through the surrounding cooler gas. Once the heated hydrogen reaches the borders of the gas cloud, it bursts outwards into the vacuum ...

Image: XMM-Newton self-portraits with planet Earth

2 hours ago

This series of images was taken 15 years ago, a couple of months after the launch of ESA's XMM-Newton space observatory. These unique views, showing parts of the spacecraft main body and solar wings, feature ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.