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NASA plans to study a little-known portion of Earth's atmosphere this year by launching two spacecraft that will monitor how our ionosphere interacts with space.

The first of the two missions is called GOLD (Global-scale Observations of the Limb and Disk), which will be launched on January 25 in an Ariane 5 rocket in Kourou, French Guiana. And later this year, the second part of the mission - the Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) - will be released.


The plan is to study how the solar wind and other space weather interact with Earth's upper atmosphere, ionosphere and temperature, at an altitude of about 97 kilometers. This region is in constant flux as it is pushed and pulled by conditions on Earth and in space.

"There are tremendous efforts of associated scientific studies on both missions," said Sarah Jones, a GOLD mission scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. "We already have models that are filled with a really good science, but these new measures will lead to a better understanding of physics in the studies," she concluded.

The GOLD will be placed in a geostationary orbit 35,000 kilometers above the Earth's surface. From there you will have a continuous view of the Earth and its outer atmosphere. You will get a complete view of the ionosphere and the upper atmosphere every half hour, giving us large-scale measurements of the region.

ICON will then be launched for a closer look. In orbit at an altitude of 565 kilometers, ICON will repeatedly pass through the GOLD field of view, so your data can overlap.

The missions are expected to help us see how hurricanes and geomagnetic storms affect the upper atmosphere beyond the solar wind. Scientists are also interested in seeing the effect of El Niño as well, while tropical cyclones can also cause some changes.

Now, thanks to this mission, let's find out how the earth and space climate can shape our upper atmosphere. [ IFLS ]
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