NASA 'goes for gold' Thursday with successful mission launch

A NASA mission launched today to explore the zone between Earth's atmosphere and the lowest reaches of space, where k...

Posted: Jan 26, 2018 9:08 AM
Updated: Jan 26, 2018 9:08 AM

A NASA mission launched today to explore the zone between Earth's atmosphere and the lowest reaches of space, where key communications satellites orbit amid bright bands of color known as airglow.

Dubbed the GOLD mission -- for Global-scale Observations of the Limb and Disk -- it is the first NASA science mission to fly an instrument on a commercial communications satellite. It launched at 5:20 p.m. ET today from French Guiana, the agency said.

The NASA GOLD mission launched Thursday from French Guiana

The near-space environment is important because it's home to technology that is key to human communication, such as satellites that provide information for GPS systems and radio signals that help guide ships and airplanes.

It's also where astronauts live on the International Space Station.

The mission will examine the response of the upper atmosphere to force from the sun, the magnetosphere and the lower atmosphere. Learning more about the ionosphere, part of Earth's upper atmosphere where the sun's radiation collides with gas that breaks into electrons and ions, is key. This dynamic environment is always changing and could easily garble radio signals coming through our atmosphere. The mission will be able to see how exactly it affects our day-to-day life.

"GOLD will seek to understand what drives change in this region where terrestrial weather in the lower atmosphere interacts with the tumult of solar activity from above and Earth's magnetic field," NASA said in a statement. "Resulting data will improve forecasting models of space weather events that can impact life on Earth, as well as satellites and astronauts in space."

Any research gained by this mission, led by the University of Central Florida, will help protect assets in the near-space zone, which extends several hundred miles from Earth's surface, NASA said.

For years, scientists have been able to study Earth's upper atmosphere in detail, using ground-based observations as well as low-Earth-orbit missions. But they were missing the bigger picture.

The GOLD mission, situated in geostationary orbit over the Western Hemisphere, will take a global scan of the ionosphere and upper atmosphere every half-hour, allowing scientists to get a complete look at the temperature and weather of that region, which they've never had before. This continued observation has the capability to last for years.

Richard Eastes, principal investigator for the GOLD mission, said that the constant monitoring will allow for observations of other phenomena, such as the effects of solar flares.

The mission is also studying a relatively new area of scientific research. Previously, it was believed that the upper atmosphere was affected primarily by the sun's radiation, which creates space weather. But there is growing evidence that it's also affected by what's going on below, like the weather on Earth.

"Tsunamis create waves in the air, and they move upwards, which could cause changes at the boundary between Earth and space," said Sarah Jones, GOLD mission scientist. "GOLD is studying how to tease out effects of sun above and Earth below."

GOLD will work directly in concert with another mission launching this year: ICON, the Ionospheric Connection Explorer.

GOLD will capture the global perspective from 22,000 miles above Earth's surface, while ICON will capture a closer view from within the upper atmosphere itself, 350 miles above Earth. ICON can also directly measure particles and how they move.

This combined global and fine-scale view will provide scientists with unique perspectives and a more complete picture of "our interface to space."

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1000163

Reported Deaths: 16309
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1347632106
Lake660041156
Allen57441793
Hamilton46100461
St. Joseph44109607
Elkhart35696507
Vanderburgh32087477
Tippecanoe27796257
Johnson24902443
Hendricks23738354
Porter22802362
Madison18614404
Clark18424250
Vigo17347301
Monroe15180197
LaPorte15046250
Delaware14984259
Howard14626287
Kosciusko12217147
Hancock11630175
Bartholomew11505179
Warrick11255189
Floyd11013214
Wayne10897250
Grant9964218
Morgan9404176
Boone8863116
Dubois8227130
Dearborn817093
Henry8139151
Noble7984106
Marshall7838134
Cass7499119
Lawrence7403170
Shelby7138114
Jackson694088
Gibson6533113
Harrison644491
Huntington633999
Knox6273106
DeKalb626397
Montgomery6208109
Miami589797
Putnam575377
Clinton570271
Whitley560455
Steuben554675
Wabash5279101
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Jefferson506996
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Daviess4616113
Scott435869
Greene422096
Wells420987
Clay420260
White415962
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Jennings385160
Posey375343
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Washington353249
Randolph341999
Spencer337342
Fountain332558
Sullivan326752
Starke313369
Owen312070
Fulton306567
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Jay280445
Perry264752
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Blackford190540
Pulaski181855
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Newton156048
Benton150217
Brown144547
Martin137419
Switzerland134211
Warren120516
Union106815
Ohio84112
Unassigned0538

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1499485

Reported Deaths: 23327
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1626291662
Cuyahoga1447662412
Hamilton1044761409
Montgomery731681240
Summit610421094
Lucas55643904
Butler51076707
Stark459431053
Lorain35141568
Warren32476369
Mahoning30315672
Clermont27930321
Lake26669434
Delaware23960162
Licking23547283
Trumbull22550552
Fairfield22179241
Greene22098311
Medina21763305
Clark19630349
Richland18342280
Portage17696247
Wood17244220
Allen15730269
Miami15355296
Muskingum14551174
Columbiana13756263
Wayne13585263
Tuscarawas12479298
Marion11797175
Scioto11388154
Pickaway11286141
Erie10676180
Ross10462196
Lawrence9663137
Hancock9546149
Ashtabula9479197
Belmont9133197
Geauga8829157
Jefferson8481191
Huron8229139
Union810756
Washington8031137
Sandusky7724145
Athens769572
Knox7606138
Darke7553151
Seneca7208144
Ashland6817125
Auglaize667896
Shelby6410111
Brown628582
Crawford6184130
Defiance6087102
Mercer608293
Fulton592996
Highland590099
Madison587576
Clinton576190
Logan574692
Guernsey572467
Preble5660121
Putnam5250108
Williams520184
Perry512561
Champaign505071
Jackson498770
Ottawa479086
Coshocton471582
Morrow451256
Pike430762
Fayette422160
Adams411587
Gallia411265
Hardin411076
Van Wert364078
Henry357871
Holmes3567122
Hocking352578
Wyandot317961
Carroll297059
Paulding275945
Meigs259249
Monroe212953
Noble196546
Morgan190832
Harrison178242
Vinton162624
Unassigned05
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The wonderful weather continues across the region Tuesday with our next chance of rain midweek.
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