Illustration of ICON spacecraft. (Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Mary Pat Hrybyk-Keith)
WASHINGTON (NRL PR)– A U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) instrument aboard NASA’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) satellite will deliver unprecedented information to help scientists investigate how both terrestrial and solar weather impact the ionosphere, the ionized region of Earth’s upper atmosphere. ICON launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, Oct. 10.
NRL’s MIGHTI (Michelson Interferometer for Global High-Resolution Thermospheric Imaging) will measure wind and temperature profiles and contribute to a critical data set for scientists as they study how energy and dynamics from the lower atmosphere propagate into the space environment.
From its large day-to-day variability to extreme conditions during solar-driven magnetic storms, the ionosphere governs how radio waves propagate and can lead to severe disruptions of radio communications and GPS signals for both the public and the military. Radio signals travel through the ionosphere, or they reflect off the ionosphere to make them reach past Earth’s horizon for the purposes of communication and long-range radar.
“The ionosphere is where Earth ends or where space begins, and we haven’t studied it nearly enough to fully understand how it works and to make reliable predictions,” said Christoph Englert, lead investigator for ...