Satellites Are Hitting Speed Bumps from High-Altitude Auroras

Satellites Are Hitting Speed Bumps from High-Altitude Auroras
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Satellites are confronting with a problem provoked by the high-altitude version of Auroras that can drag the spacecraft at low altitudes. The new study reports that these auroras are transporting sacks of air into Earth’ atmosphere and the spacecraft that are surrounding the planet are diverted from their direction. The bags of air are called speed bumps by scientists who have to search the reason why this drop in altitude happens.

What Data We Have from the Mission?

The mission had started in December 2015 from Norway, under the leadership of Marc Lessard, a physicist at the University of New Hampshire, with the Rocket Experiment for Neutral Upwelling 2 (RENU2).  Through RENU 2, the scientists have observed in the atmosphere moving auroral forms (PMAFs) that are different from the auroras known by us. They are dimmer and less energetic than normal ones. At the same time, those PMAFs are much higher to the ones we see. They are at 400 kilometers above the ground, and the northern lights are at 100 km above the ground. Also, the study has found that PMAFs transfer energy to the air in the upper Earth’s atmosphere and that can cause problems to the satellite that are passing by the low Earth orbit. Lessard is saying that the satellites are moving by these bubbles similar to the bubbles in a lava lamp.

Finally, the Earth’s auroras are a result of charged particles when the Sun hits into molecules in our planet’s atmosphere; this process is the one that excites the molecules to emit light as we see them. The colors we see on the auroras are given by the way the molecule is affected. For example, if a particle is hit by oxygen, the colors will be yellow and green; if nitrogen hit the molecules, the colors will be purple, blue, or red.


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