BYU Today

BYU Mirrors Reveal Earth’s Magnetic Trail


 

Earth

The photo, taken by the IMAGE spacecraft on August 11, 2000, looks down at the Earth from above the North Pole. The hook-shaped “tail” of plasma streaming toward the Sun can be seen at the top eft of the picture.

NASA satellite instrument that uses extreme ultraviolet mirrors fashioned by BYU undergraduates revealed a suspected, but previously invisible, “tail” of electrified gas that streams from Earth toward the sun.

The tail was spotted by NASA‘s Imager for Magnetopause to Aurora Global Exploration (IMAGE) spacecraft and is featured on the cover of the Jan. 26 issue of the journal Science. The new imaging technology offers unprecedented views of the transparent, electrified gas trapped within Earth’s magnetic field, providing the first visual, global perspective on magnetic storms.

David D. Allred, ’71, a BYU physics professor who advised undergraduates as they worked on the mirrors, says the IMAGE project is helping scientists confirm long-held suspicions about the magnetosphere. “The tail is one thing scientists thought for sure had to be there–they just hadn’t seen it yet. It’s exciting to see the overall picture come into better focus,” Allred says.

WEB: www.gsfc.nasa.gov/gsfc/spacesci/sunearth/imagescience.htm