NASA Rocket, Satellite Tag-Team to View the Giant Electric Current in the Sky

Mission launch timed as ICON passes nearby to compare perspectives on dynamo

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by Miles Hatfield, NASA —The Dynamo-2 sounding rocket mission will launch two rockets coordinated with the passing of the ICON satellite overhead to study a churning electric current in the upper atmosphere. The mission is just the latest in a centuries-long quest to understand the atmospheric dynamo, beginning with Michael Faraday’s invention of the electric generator.

Some 50 miles up, where Earth’s atmosphere blends into space, the air itself hums with an electric current. Scientists call it the atmospheric dynamo, an Earth-sized electric generator. It’s taken hundreds of years for scientists to lay the groundwork to understand it, but the principles that keep it running are only just now being revealed in detail. 

Following up on its predecessor’s 2013 flight, the Dynamos, Winds, and Electric Fields in the Daytime Lower Ionosphere-2, or Dynamo-2, sounding rocket mission will soon pierce the atmospheric winds thought to keep the dynamo churning. With the sounding rocket’s launch timed as NASA’s ICON (Ionospheric Connection Explorer) satellite passes nearby, these two space missions will combine their perspectives to advance our understanding of the giant electric circuit in the sky.

Science Data Update: First Hough Mode retrievals coming to the data site

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ICON is in process of approving the Hough Mode product, the first Level 4 product, available for most of 2020. This product comes in 2 parts; 1) a set of diurnal and semidiurnal tidal amplitudes in a sliding 30-day window for 2020 centered on the day of interest, and 2) a TIEGCM lower boundary specification for the same date.

Update: These files are now all available on the public ftp site

Documentation for each of these components (1, 2) of the product are also available on the FTP site.

First ICON Science Data Released to Public

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[by Lina Tran on the NASA blog] On June 22, NASA’s ICON team released scientific data collected during the spacecraft’s first eight months in orbit to the public.

The data release features observations from ICON’s four instruments — MIGHTI, FUV, EUV, and IVM — which have been observing the ins and outs of the ionosphere, the sea of charged particles high in the upper atmosphere. Scientists have been busy parsing the wealth of observations collected by ICON in preparation for the mission’s first science results, which will be released later this year.

“ICON was designed, built, and launched to provide data we had never seen before, and it has not disappointed us in any regard,” said Thomas Immel, ICON principal investigator at University of California, Berkeley. Immel said he was pleased to share ICON’s first data with the world. “The sensitivity and precision of our observations, and the unique orbit and mission design, give us a new and advanced tool for unlocking all the puzzling questions we have had about the connection between Earth’s atmosphere and our space environment.”

The release coincides with the virtual summer meeting of CEDAR, the Coupling, Energetics, and Dynamics of Atmospheric Regions program. The newly released data spans measurements made since the mission’s launch on Oct. 10, 2019. Data can be accessed through University of California Berkeley’s Space Sciences Lab.

ICON first results to be featured at virtual CEDAR Meeting June 22-26

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The CEDAR 2020 annual face-to-face conference has been cancelled due to COVID-19, but a two-day virtual conference will take place June 22-26. It will include a National Science Foundation town hall, student workshop, pre-recorded presentations and individual workshops.

ICON results will be featured in its own data introduction and tutorial session and in several more of these workshops, including those focused on Thermospheric Winds, Model Systems Engineering and Coordinated Ground and Space-Based observations.   

The agenda for the CEDAR meeting is here.

The evolving list of workshops can be found here. http://cedarweb.vsp.ucar.edu/wiki/index.php/2020_Workshop:workshoplist

Register here at no cost to be included in the mailing list.

Newly-Launched ICON Observatory Sees the December 2019 Eclipse

What happens when airglow is temporarily “turned off”?

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Just over six weeks after launch and early calibrations, NASA’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) mission was presented with a unique opportunity. ICON flew very close to the December 26 solar eclipse track that extended across Asia, and observed the major changes in upper atmospheric airglow that naturally occurred. ICON’s four instruments, primed to look at the ionosphere, the dynamic region where Earth meets space, were in position to observe the effects. What happens when airglow –the natural glow of Earth’s atmosphere caused by solar radiation – is temporarily “turned off” when the sun is blocked by the moon’s shadow for a few minutes? Preliminary data shows that all four instruments – MIGHTI, EUV, FUV and IVM – were able to see changes the eclipse wrought.

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ICON skin is based on Greytness by Adammer
Background image, courtesy of NASA, is a derivitave of photograph taken by D. Pettit from the ISS, used under Creative Commons license