NASA’s GOLD instrument captures its first image of the Earth

Chennabasaveshwar P

NASA, Sep 20: The NASA's Global-scale Observations of the Limb and Disk (GOLD) transmitted the first observations of Earth's upper atmosphere,The Earth's ultraviolet atomic oxygen emissions, which is set to explore the dynamic boundary between Earth's atmosphere and space.

GOLD instrument powered on and opened its cover to scan the Earth for the first time, resulting in a "first light" image of the Western Hemisphere in the ultraviolet. GOLD will provide unprecedented global-scale imaging of the temperature and composition at the dynamic boundary between Earth's atmosphere and space.

GOLD is a NASA mission of opportunity led by the University of Central Florida. The Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado Boulder built the instrument. A payload hosted on an otherwise unrelated satellite, the GOLD instrument flies in geostationary orbit on a commercial communications satellite, SES-14, built by Airbus for Luxembourg-based satellite operator, SES.

GOLD satellite

In January 208, NASA launched Global-scale Observations of the Limb and Disk, or GOLD, a hosted payload aboard SES-14, a commercial communications satellite. GOLD will investigate the dynamic intermingling of space and Earth's uppermost atmosphere - and is the first NASA science mission to fly an instrument as a commercially hosted payload.

The Objective of the mission

At the boundary between Earth's atmosphere and space, the charged particles -called the ionosphere - co-exist with the upper reaches of the neutral atmosphere, called the thermosphere. The two commingle and influence one another constantly. This interplay - and the role terrestrial weather, space weather and Earth's own magnetic field each have in it - is the focus of GOLD's mission.

Forecasting models of the space

GOLD seeks to understand what drives change in this critical region. Resulting data will improve forecasting models of the space weather events that can impact life on Earth, as well as satellites and astronauts in space. GOLD is the first mission that can provide us with observations fast enough to monitor the details of regular, hour-by-hour changes in space weather - not just its overarching climate.

'First light' image transmitted by GOLD

This is the "first light" image of ultraviolet atomic oxygen emission (135.6 nm wavelength) from the Earth's upper atmosphere captured by NASA's GOLD instrument. It was taken at approximately 6 a.m. local time, near sunrise in eastern South America. The colors correspond to emission brightness, with the strongest shown in red and the weakest in blue. This emission is produced at altitudes around 160 km (note how it extends above the Earth's surface on the horizon), when the Earth's upper atmosphere absorbs high energy photons and particles. The aurora, at the top and bottom of the image, and daytime airglow, on the right hand side, are also visible. An ultraviolet star, 66 Ophiuchi (HD 164284), is visible above the western horizon of the Earth. Outlines of the continents and a latitude-longitude grid have been added for reference. (Courtesy LASP/GOLD science team)

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