SEVERE WX : Severe Thunderstorm Watch View Alerts

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."

West Lafayette
Partly Cloudy
90° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 72°
Feels Like: 98°
Kokomo
Partly Cloudy
85° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 73°
Feels Like: 91°
Rensselaer
Partly Cloudy
81° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 84°
Fowler
Partly Cloudy
90° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 98°
Williamsport
Partly Cloudy
84° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 71°
Feels Like: 91°
Crawfordsville
Partly Cloudy
82° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 71°
Feels Like: 87°
Frankfort
Partly Cloudy
82° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 72°
Feels Like: 87°
Delphi
Partly Cloudy
83° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 72°
Feels Like: 88°
Monticello
Partly Cloudy
83° wxIcon
Hi: 92° Lo: 73°
Feels Like: 88°
Logansport
Partly Cloudy
82° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 85°
Severe weather risk, then brief, but substantial cool-down...
WLFI Temps
WLFI Planner

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 751242

Reported Deaths: 13795
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1032931788
Lake556911009
Allen41692692
St. Joseph36990565
Hamilton36588417
Elkhart29398461
Tippecanoe22901226
Vanderburgh22556400
Porter19356325
Johnson18471389
Hendricks17682317
Clark13226195
Madison13149344
Vigo12614253
LaPorte12419221
Monroe12207176
Delaware10966198
Howard10321225
Kosciusko9630121
Hancock8576146
Bartholomew8169157
Warrick7860156
Floyd7811180
Grant7242179
Wayne7162201
Boone6966103
Morgan6761141
Dubois6218118
Marshall6209116
Cass6016110
Henry5900110
Dearborn589878
Noble581488
Jackson509076
Shelby501496
Lawrence4742122
Gibson444894
Clinton442355
Harrison441875
DeKalb439885
Montgomery438090
Whitley406543
Huntington402681
Steuben400159
Miami395269
Jasper388054
Knox375991
Putnam372960
Wabash361983
Ripley347170
Adams345555
Jefferson335886
White331953
Daviess3033100
Wells295281
Decatur289992
Greene286885
Fayette284864
Posey273835
LaGrange273072
Scott270156
Clay267148
Washington246036
Randolph244783
Jennings235349
Spencer234531
Starke228058
Fountain220948
Sullivan214643
Owen211858
Fulton202942
Jay200932
Carroll193620
Orange188255
Perry187237
Rush175926
Vermillion174844
Franklin170335
Tipton166246
Parke149416
Pike138234
Blackford136232
Pulaski120647
Newton113936
Brown104243
Crawford102516
Benton101714
Martin91715
Warren84015
Switzerland8148
Union72810
Ohio57911
Unassigned0420

COVID-19 Important links and resources

As the spread of COVID-19, or as it's more commonly known as the coronavirus continues, this page will serve as your one-stop for the resources you need to stay informed and to keep you and your family safe. CLICK HERE

Closings related to the prevention of the COVID-19 can be found on our Closings page.

Community Events