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: Europe poised to launch more navigation satellites

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Image: Launch of first crewed Gemini flight

Mar 24, 2015

In a span of 20 months from March 1965 to November 1966, NASA developed, tested and flew transformative capabilities and cutting-edge technologies in the Gemini program that paved the way for not only Apollo, ...

NASA sees Nathan weakening near Darwin, Australia

Mar 24, 2015

Tropical Cyclone Nathan has been weakening as it continued to move over land in Australia's Northern Territory on March 24. NASA's Aqua satellite captured a visible picture of the storm over land. Just one ...

The mystery of nanoflares

Mar 20, 2015

When you attach the prefix "nano" to something, it usually means "very small." Solar flares appear to be the exception.

Recommended for you

Galaxy clusters collide—dark matter still a mystery

5 hours ago

When galaxy clusters collide, their dark matters pass through each other, with very little interaction. Deepening the mystery, a study by scientists at EPFL and the University of Edinburgh challenges the ...

Using 19th century technology to time travel to the stars

10 hours ago

In the late 19th century, astronomers developed the technique of capturing telescopic images of stars and galaxies on glass photographic plates. This allowed them to study the night sky in detail. Over 500,000 ...

Image: The colors of sunset over the ISS

12 hours ago

ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti took these images from the International Space Station during her six-month mission. The Progress cargo ship and Soyuz crew spacecraft reflect sunlight as our star sets ...

Feud on Earth but peace in space for US and Russia

14 hours ago

Hundreds of kilometres below on Earth, their governments are locked in a standoff over Ukraine—but up in space, Russian cosmonauts and American astronauts are still working together side by side.

Japan launches replacement spy satellite

15 hours ago

Japan on Thursday successfully launched a replacement spy satellite, its aerospace agency said, as an existing device comes to the end of its working life.

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.