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NASA Launches a Mission To Study the Border of Earth and Space ( 45

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: A new NASA mission, the first to hitch a ride on a commercial communications satellite, will examine Earth's upper atmosphere to see how the boundary between Earth and space changes over time. GOLD stands for Global-scale Observations of the Limb and Disk, and the mission will focus on the temperature and makeup of Earth's highest atmospheric layers. Along with another upcoming satellite, called ICON, GOLD will examine how weather on Earth -- and space weather caused by the sun -- affects those uppermost layers. GOLD, which will inspect the ultraviolet radiation that the upper atmosphere releases, will also be the first to take comprehensive records of that atmospheric layer's temperature. The satellite carrying GOLD will orbit 22,000 miles (35,400 kilometers) above Earth in a geostationary orbit, which means GOLD will stay fixed with respect to Earth's surface as the satellite orbits and the world turns. GOLD will pay particularly close attention to Earth's thermosphere, which is the gas that surrounds the Earth higher than 60 miles (97 km) up, and the layer called the ionosphere, which forms as radiation from the sun strips away electrons from particles to create charged ions. And although solar flares and other interactions on the sun do have a strong impact on those layers, scientists are learning that Earth's own weather has an impact on the layers, too.
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NASA Launches a Mission To Study the Border of Earth and Space

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  • From the sun the affects shouldn't affect weather much beyond normal seasons and slightly elliptical orbit variations that are already known. What could be interesting is the reverse, how weather on Earth affects the ionisphere and thermosphere as it will be looking at that too. Ionisphere varies on night and day cycles due to the radiation, but that really just affects RF communications. It would be cool if it showed something unexpected, however.

  • 'NASA launches a mission to study blah, blah, blah'. No, it WILL launch a mission towards the end of the month. Then you can write 'NASA launches a mission'.

  • How much budget did they waste on finding this stupid acronym?

    Study Border between Earth and Space: SBES
    There, that's your fucking acronym.

    • I agree. Why do the space nerds make up such silly acronyms. Use the Scientific Method, Luke.
    • by yaznaz ( 4678625 )
      For people in the Heliophysics community, the terminology in GOLD abbreviation is more accurate and appropriate definition of the mission. It might not be to the common person, but you were never their audience.
      See here to understand the context of the words "limb "and "disk" in this context: []
  • Greath Ice Barrier also know of the Wall !

  • So, is this going to tell us why we don't fall off?

  • This seems to be a really niche bit of science yet somebody convinced some people that it was worth spending a lot of money on as opposed to the types of missions mere mortals can appreciate like manned missions to some place other than the ISS.

    • Fundamental science is part of NASA's remit. And from TFA:

      > Being able to model the region accurately is particularly important, the researchers said, because the ionosphere affects radio and GPS technology as well as spacecraft. Right now, changes can be observed only every several hours, and models of the upper atmosphere can predict only about a day of changes. GOLD will be able to monitor how the upper atmosphere changes and evolves throughout the day on an hourly basis so researchers can build bette

      • by Anonymous Coward

        It's the ability to accurately measure the ionosphere that interests me. This layer of the atmosphere distorts or reflects radio signals, so it's relevant to low-frequency radio communications, over-the-horizon radar, GPS and any other satellites that need a communications link. There are thousands of scientists who study it, for these reasons.

        The ionosphere also affects radio astronomy, which is my area: although I recognise that this is not the primary driver for this mission, it'll still be useful.

    • I don't know the exact cost of this, but given it's an addon to an existing launch anyway, probably only tens of millions. Any serious program of manned exploration beyond Earth orbit is going to cost tens of billions at the very least, probably more.

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