NASA launches weather satellite into upper atmosphere


5 On Your Side meteorologist Jessica Quick was one of 40 people chosen from around the world to attend NASA’s social event during the GOLD launch.

Last Thursday, NASA successfully launched its latest mission, GOLD, a project to study the weather in Earth’s upper atmosphere.

GOLD, or Global-Scale Observations of the Limb and Disk, will measure air temperatures and densities across the thermosphere and ionosphere using ultraviolet imagery on a geostationary satellite.

The Earth’s ionosphere is a very thin layer of air particles in the upper atmosphere that is always in flux between Earth conditions and what is happening in space just beyond.

The ionosphere is home to radio signals that guide planes and ships, as well as satellites that provide communication and GPS systems.

The GOLD mission is expected to examine disturbances in the ionosphere that appear as charged bubbles over the equator and the tropics that could interfere with radio communications.

GOLD will also help scientists understand how weather processes in the upper atmosphere change in response to hurricanes or geomagnetic storms, for example.

Scientists have concluded that tropical cyclones in the troposphere (where humans live) could have effects on the ionosphere.

The GOLD device will scan the entire disk or obtain a full image of the ionosphere to compile into upper atmosphere forecasting models.

The new measurements from GOLD will allow scientists to better understand the physics and mathematics involved in the model.

The whole device weighs about 80 pounds and was built at the Atmospheric and Space Physics Laboratory at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

NASA held a pre-launch social media event last Wednesday, and 5 On Your Side meteorologist Jessica Quick was one of 40 people around the world chosen to attend the event along with 3 other meteorologists from different regions of the country.

Attendees were able to hear from the scientists who worked on the project and those who will interpret the data collected by GOLD to advance knowledge of the upper atmosphere.

We were also able to visit the LASP facilities, where several spacecraft are assembled on site. One of the meeting rooms was 50 times more sterile than a standard surgical operating room in a hospital. The environment must be extremely clean for everything to go well during a launch.

At the end of the evening, we visited NCAR, or the National Center for Atmospheric Research. The facility is state of the art and open to the public 24/7.

The center offers demonstrations of how certain surface weather processes, such as tornadoes, work, as well as how forecasting models work and some of the instruments used to forecast the weather past and present.

Scientists are also working here to improve several forecasting models that meteorologists use daily.


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