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Atmospheric Waves Experiment

  • Category
    Science & Technology
  • Published
    7th Mar, 2019

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has selected a new mission- Atmospheric Waves Experiment (AWE)- that will help scientists understand and ultimately, forecast the vast space weather system around the Earth.

Context

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has selected a new mission- Atmospheric Waves Experiment (AWE)- that will help scientists understand and ultimately, forecast the vast space weather system around the Earth.

About

Atmospheric Waves Experiment

  • Its objective is to study and focus on airglow, colorful bands of light in Earth’s atmosphere to determine what combination of forces drive space weather in upper atmosphere.
  • It will be the first such experiment to obtain global observations of important driver of space weather in dynamic region of Earth’s upper atmosphere that can cause interference with radio and GPS communications.
  • The mission will cost $42 million and is planned to launch in August 2022, attached to the exterior of the Earth-orbiting International Space Station (ISS).
  • AWE is a Mission of Opportunity under NASA’s Heliophysics Explorers Program, which conducts focused scientific research and develops instrumentation to fill the scientific gaps between the agency’s larger missions.
  • AWE was selected for development based on its potential science value and the feasibility of its development plans.

Significance

  • Studying space weather is significant as it can have profound impacts, affecting technology and astronauts in space, disrupting radio communications and at its most severe, overwhelming power grids.
  • It was earlier thought that only Sun’s constant outflow of ultraviolet (UV) light and particles, solar wind, could affect airglow region. However, now researchers have learned that solar variability is not enough to drive changes observed at this region and Earth’s weather also having effect on it.
  • AWE mission will investigate how waves in lower atmosphere, caused by variations in densities of different packets of air, impact upper atmosphere.
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