Volcanic mountains

Space Dynamics Laboratory cameras allow NASA mission to discover space reached by volcanic eruption

Space Dynamics Laboratory cameras allow NASA mission to discover space reached by volcanic eruption

Press release from: Spatial Dynamics Laboratory
Posted: Tuesday June 14th 2022

NORTH LOGAN, Utah, June 14, 2022 – In a recent study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, researchers used data provided by NASA’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer satellite, or ICON, to conclude that the effects of an eruption volcanic earlier this year reached space. Utah State University’s Space Dynamics Laboratory developed cameras in two of the main instruments aboard ICON and led payload integration and test activities for NASA.

On January 15, 2022, an underwater volcano erupted 65 kilometers north of the Tongan island of Tongatapu. The Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcanic eruption has been heard from Australia to Alaska. A shock wave from the explosion traveled 300 meters per second through the atmosphere, carrying with it a giant plume of gas, water vapor and dust, according to NASA. Along with data obtained from the European Space Agency’s Swarm satellites, the ICON data helped scientists determine that the effects of the volcanic eruption were producing winds of up to 724 kilometers per hour and unusual electrical currents in the ionosphere.

The ionosphere is the region of the Earth’s atmosphere approximately 80 to 1,000 kilometers above sea level where space weather and Earth weather merge. Scientists have realized that the effects of Earth’s weather play a role in space weather. Space weather anomalies can impact human space missions as well as satellites that provide critical applications for communications, banking, navigation, weather forecasting, and more.

The camera developed by SDL for the Michelson Interferometer for High-Resolution Worldwide Thermospheric Imaging – or MIGHTI – on board the ICON satellite provided scientists with neutral wind profiles between 90 and 300 kilometers in altitude that were derived from remote observations of green and red glow emissions.

“Launched in October 2019, ICON helps scientists better understand how space weather interacts with phenomena on Earth such as the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcanic eruption,” said Alan Thurgood, Director of Civil Space and commercial at SDL. “SDL is proud to have provided enabling technology for NASA’s ICON mission, helping scientists learn more about this relatively unknown region on the periphery of our atmosphere. Dedicated SDL employees are hard at work on the next atmospheric wave experiment, which will further enhance knowledge of important phenomena that can affect daily activities on Earth.

In 2019, NASA chose SDL to build an instrument that will further study how phenomena on Earth, such as volcanic eruptions, winds rushing up over mountain ranges or large thunderstorms, affect the space weather. Scheduled for launch in 2023, NASA’s Atmospheric Wave Experiment, or AWE, is led by USU physics professor Michael J. Taylor. AWE will fly on the International Space Station to study atmospheric gravity waves in Earth’s atmosphere to help scientists gain a deeper understanding of the connections caused by climate systems through our atmosphere and between the atmosphere and the Earth. space.

SDL also provides overall mission management, including project management, systems engineering, security and mission assurance, and mission operations for AWE.

Since 1959, SDL has been solving technical challenges faced by the military, scientific community and industry and supporting NASA’s mission to advance science, technology, aeronautics and space exploration to improve knowledge, education, innovation, economic vitality and stewardship. of the earth. SDL is a research laboratory headquartered in North Logan, UT, with offices in Albuquerque, NM; Colorado Springs, CO; Dayton, Ohio; Houston, TX; Huntsville, AL; Los Angeles, CA; Stafford, Virginia; and Washington, DC. For more information, visit www.sdl.usu.edu.

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