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Atmospheric Waves Experiment


NASA is set to launch the Atmospheric Waves Experiment (AWE) to study ‘airglow’ to understand space weather.


GS III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Atmospheric Waves Experiment (AWE): Unraveling Terrestrial and Space Weather Interactions
  2. NASA’s AWE Mission Objectives
  3. Understanding Airglow

Atmospheric Waves Experiment (AWE): Unraveling Terrestrial and Space Weather Interactions

  • NASA’s Heliophysics Explorers Programme:
    • A pioneering NASA experiment, AWE delves into the dynamic connections between terrestrial and space weather.
  • International Space Station (ISS) Deployment:
    • AWE will be launched and affixed to the exterior of the ISS, providing a unique observational vantage point.
  • Airglow Observation:
    • Positioned to gaze down at Earth, AWE records airglow, the vibrant light bands, to comprehend their role in space weather.
  • Understanding Space Weather Forces:
    • AWE aims to decipher the intricate interplay of forces influencing space weather in the upper atmosphere.
  • Mesopause Measurement:
    • AWE focuses on measuring airglow at the mesopause (85 to 87 km above Earth), where temperatures plunge to -100 degrees Celsius.
  • Infrared Bandwidth Detection:
    • Uniquely positioned to capture faint airglow in the infrared spectrum, particularly the brightest wavelengths for efficient detection.
  • Fine-Scale Wave Resolution:
    • AWE’s distinctive capability lies in resolving waves at finer horizontal scales compared to traditional satellite observations at those altitudes.
  • Ionosphere Health Significance:
    • AWE’s insights into space weather contribute to assessing the health of the ionosphere, crucial for maintaining uninterrupted communication.

NASA’s AWE Mission Objectives

  • Airglow Mapping:
    • AWE will undertake precise mapping of the vibrant airglows present in the Earth’s atmosphere.
  • Advanced Mesospheric Temperature Mapper (ATMT):
    • The mission incorporates ATMT, an instrument designed to scan and map the mesopause, a crucial atmospheric region.
  • Imaging Radiometer Technology:
    • Four identical telescopes with an imaging radiometer will capture specific wavelengths, enabling the creation of a temperature map.
  • Temperature Map Insights:
    • Scientists aim to convert the brightness of light into a temperature map, unraveling the movement of airglows and providing insights into their role in the upper atmosphere and space weather.

Understanding Airglow

  • Nature of Airglow:
    • Airglow is the subtle luminescence observed in Earth’s upper atmosphere, arising from the selective absorption of solar ultraviolet and X-radiation by air molecules and atoms.
  • Altitude Concentration:
    • Predominantly emanating from the region 50 to 300 km above Earth’s surface, the brightest airglow is typically concentrated at altitudes around 97 km.

-Source: Indian Express

February 2024