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Aurora Viper [EXCLUSIVE]

Fountains of electrified gases spewing from the Earth into space and pictures of the aurora during the day will be highlighted by the American Geophysical Union (AGU) annual winter conference in San Francisco Dec. 15-19.

aurora viper


AGU is one of the largest scientific bodies in the world and takes in everything from earthquakes to solar flares - including work by scientists at Marshall Space Flight Center's Space Sciences Laboratory (SSL) to understand what drives the aurora borealis and causes space storms that can black out cities.

"Northern winter traditionally has been the busy season for plasma scientists," said Dr. James Spann, a UVI co-investigator at SSL, "because that's when the aurora borealis is almost all in the night sky and can be viewed in visible as well as ultraviolet light."

UVI, included in three sessions at AGU, extends the busy season by letting scientists see what happens during the day. Doing this has been a challenge because the atmosphere's ozone layer reflects solar ultraviolet light that blinds most sensors. Previous instruments let scientists see parts of the daytime aurora, or the entire nightside auora. UVI aboard Polar is the first to show all of both day and nightside auroras. It does this with narrow bandpass filters - filters that admit narrowly define colors - that match lights emitted by the auroras.

UVI lets scientists measure, with precision, the energies flowing into the auroral oval. In addition to striking pictures, UVI reveals the footprint of the Earth's magnetic field lines that may stretch into deep space to several times the distance from Earth to Moon. 041b061a72


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