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Sunday, 11 February 2007 22:42

NASA spacecraft THEMIS to launch February 15 to study auroras near Earth's poles

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NASA is expected to launch its THEMIS spacecraft on Thursday, February 15, 2007, to study magnetic storms that affect auroras near the North and South Poles of the Earth.

THEMIS is an acronym for Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms.

Auroras are brightly colored lights, flares, and streamers seen in the evening sky around the North Pole and the South Pole, which are caused by the interaction of gases in the Earth’s atmosphere and particles from the Sun. The aurora seen at the North Pole is called aurora borealis (or northern lights), while the aurora observed at the South Pole is called aurora australis (or southern lights).

THEMIS will be launched aboard a U.S. Delta II rocket from Launch Complex 17 (LC-17) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida between the hours of 6:08 and 6:27 p.m. eastern standard time (EST).

The spacecraft consists of five satellites that will orbit about the Earth to study energy released from substorms within the Earth’s magnetosphere. Each satellite will carry the following scientific instruments in order to monitor the auroras: an electric field instrument (EFI), an electrostatic analyzer (ESA), a fluxgate magnetometer (FGM), a search coil magnetometer (SCM), and a solid-state telescope (SST).

For more information about the mission, read the January 20, 2007 ITwire article “THEMIS five-satellite spacecraft to study magnetic space storms” at: http://www.itwire.com.au/content/view/8756/1066/.

NASA will conduct a live THEMIS pre-launch news conference on NASA TV at 1 p.m. EST and a THEMIS mission science briefing at 2 p.m. EST on Wednesday, February 14.

Then, on launch day, NASA will begin live television coverage of the THEMIS launch at 4 p.m. EST. You can watch these live events on NASA TV at: http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/nasatv/.


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