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Images and videos of preliminary TIMED data

NASA's Sun-Earth Connection

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Caption for Image/Animation 1: TIMED FOR TRACKING
Launched Dec. 7, 2001, TIMED is exploring an entirely unexplored part of our atmosphere: the MLTI. Located just at the edge of space, scientists hope TIMED will reveal how the MLTI affects and is changed by Earth's lower atmosphere and how it influences the space near Earth occupied by low-orbiting satellites.

Caption for Image/Movie
Solar flares are generated by the powerful blasts of magnetic energy on the Sun and are capable of hurling millions of tons of plasma toward Earth. This close-up view of the flare on April 21 is from NASA's Transition Region and Coronal Explorer (TRACE) spacecraft. Classified as the most powerful type, an X-class flare, it is accompanied by coils of hot, electrified gas known as coronal loops. Typically appearing above sunspots, the loops are often more than 300,000 miles high and capable of spanning 30 Earths!

The sunspot group 9906 was very active in mid-April, producing a series of solar flares, or explosions, within about five days. The largest was an X-class 1.5 flare that sent a powerful coronal mass ejection (CME) hurling toward Earth on April 21. When it reached Earth a few days later, the expanding cloud from that CME resulted in a range of geomagnetic activity and auroras. SUPER: NASA / LMSAL

Caption for Image/Movie 3 and 4: EARTH-BOUND SHOTS OF PLASMA
These views came from two instruments on the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) spacecraft on April 21. The first shows a full-disk image of the Sun from the Extreme ultraviolet Imaging Telescope (EIT) showing the 'explosion' on the Sun of the X-class flare. The latter image is from the Large Angle Spectrometric Coronograph (LASCO) instrument on SOHO which mimics an eclipse to study the Sun's corona, that wispy white atmosphere of the Sun. SUPER: NASA / ESA

Caption for Image 5: WHERE IS THE MLTI?
TIMED is studying the unexplored MLTI region at the edge of space where air pressure is a thousand to a trillion times less than at sea level. Home to electric currents that produce the aurora, the MLTI is very turbulent and variable enough to possibly serve as early warning signs of global climate change. This region has been difficult to study because it is too high for airplanes or balloons and too low for most satellites to sample directly. TIMED orbit is just above the MLTI and works with a network of ground-based observation sites.

Understanding the MLTI is necessary for understanding how solar activity threatens to drag low-orbiting satellites back toward Earth if not for periodic reboosts. TIMED is also expected to improve space weather predictions upon which communications, satellite tracking, and spacecraft reentry plans hinge. SUPER: NASA / APL

Caption for Image/Movie 6: TIMED FOR ACTION
The TIMED spacecraft weighs 1,294 lbs (587 kg) and measures 38.5 feet wide in orbit with its solar array deployed. Its mission will lead it to an orbit of 388 miles above the Earth; that's about 50 miles higher than communications satellites and slightly higher than the space shuttle. It carries four instruments and is a joint mission of NASA and the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md.

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May 28, 2002 - (date of web publication)


TIMED satellite

Image 1


Data on the Sun's activities during a recent series of strong solar storms were gathered by an entire fleet of NASA's Sun-Earth Connection spacecraft. The atmospheric data from NASA's newest solar spacecraft, TIMED (Thermosphere, Ionosphere, Mesosphere, Energetics and Dynamics), is providing important new information on the final link in the Sun-Earth Connection chain of physical processes that connect the Sun and Earth.

solar flare

Image 2


"Several NASA spacecraft observed this strong activity as it came from the Sun. Now TIMED provides the critical link between what happened on the Sun and Earth's response," said Sam Yee, leader of TIMED's science team, at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md.

"TIMED allows us to observe the global reaction of our upper atmosphere to solar activity," said Mary Mellott, TIMED program scientist, NASA Headquarters in Washington. "One of the important current puzzles for the Sun-Earth Connection (SEC) community is determining why some solar activity has significant geospace impact and some does not. Being able to monitor the impact so well with TIMED should allow the scientific community to make significant progress toward solving this SEC mystery."

earth-bound shots of plasma

Image 3


Along with TIMED, a fleet of observatories in space and on the ground observed a powerful flare April 21 as part of the Max Millennium program. The program, sponsored by NASA as part of the Reuven Ramaty High Energy Solar Spectroscopic Imager (RHESSI) mission, focuses on solar active regions with the potential to produce storm activity. Every 24 hours, an e-mail message with the current target is sent to participating observatories so that coordinated observations can be made.

earth-bound shots of plasma

Image 4


The Transition Region and Coronal Explorer spacecraft got a close-up look at the flare and its aftermath, while RHESSI recorded flashes of X-rays that reveal impulsive energy-release processes in flares, and the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) got the big-picture view, including the ejection of electrified gas clouds into space. Additional observatories on the ground participated, like the Nobeyama Radio Observatory, Nagano, Japan, which tracked radio emission from the flare and its aftermath. Other spacecraft near Earth, like the Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE), the Imager for Magnetopause to Aurora Global Exploration (IMAGE), and the Polar and Wind spacecraft, will be consulted to determine the effects on the Earth.


Image 5


"Detailed modeling using data from the many instruments will take a long time, but it may help us in understanding the basic processes at play during a solar explosion, called a solar flare," said Stein Vidar Hagfors Haugan, a SOHO scientist based at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. "The idea is that observing more pieces of the same picture is a lot better than observing the same number of pieces of different pictures at different times."

Preliminary TIMED data will be featured in a special session at the Spring 2002 American Geophysical Union meeting, May 31, in Washington. TIMED, the first of NASA's Solar Terrestrial Probes missions, began its science mission in January 2002 and studies the influences of both the Sun and humans on one of the Earth's least understood atmospheric regions -- the Mesosphere and Lower Thermosphere/Ionosphere (MLTI) -- the gateway between Earth's environment and space. The MLTI region is located approximately 40-110 miles (60-180 kilometers) above the surface of the Earth.

TIMED launch

Image 6


Space weather in Earth's upper atmospheric regions can affect satellite communications and orbital tracking, spacecraft lifetimes and the reentry of piloted vehicles. "When a change occurs in one region of our atmosphere, it affects other regions," Yee says. "It's important that we better understand how this gateway region responds to various solar inputs, which affect our atmosphere's overall energy balance."


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