Space is about to get a little more…MIGHTI.
A Naval Research Laboratory instrument designed to study the Earth’s thermosphere is part of a satellite mission that NASA has selected to move forward into development (Phase B), with launch expected in 2017.
The NRL Space Science Division (SSD) developed Michelson Interferometer for Global High-resolution Thermospheric Imaging (MIGHTI) satellite instrument is part of NASA’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) mission.
The ICON mission, led by Dr. Thomas Immel at the University of California, Berkeley, will fly a suite of instruments designed to determine the conditions in space modified by weather on the planet, and to understand the way space weather events grow to envelop regions of our planet with dense ionospheric plasma.
Ionospheres act as a boundary between planetary atmospheres and space.
They contain weakly ionized plasmas that are strongly coupled to their neutral atmospheres, but also influenced by the conditions in the space environment. They experience a constant tug-of-war between these external and internal influences, and exhibit a remarkable set of non-linear behaviors, explains NRL’s Dr. Christoph Englert.
The unpredictable variability of the Earth’s ionosphere interferes with communications and geo-positioning signals and is a national concern. ICON makes a complete set of measurements of the state of the ionosphere and all of the critical drivers that affect it to understand this variability.