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NASA’s newly rediscovered IMAGE mission provided key aurora research

02 February 2018

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On 20 January 2018, amateur astronomer Scott Tilley detected an unexpected signal coming from what he later postulated was NASA's long-lost IMAGE satellite, which had not been in contact since 2005. On 30 January, NASA — along with help from a community of IMAGE scientists and engineers — confirmed that the signal was indeed from the IMAGE spacecraft. Whatever the next steps for IMAGE may be, the mission's nearly six years in operation provided robust research about the space around Earth that continue to guide science to this day.

On 25 March 2000, NASA launched the Imager for Magnetopause-to-Aurora Global Exploration, or IMAGE, mission. It was the first mission to use neutral atom, photon and radio imaging techniques to produce large-scale, simultaneous measurements of the charged particles that exist in near-Earth space — namely in our magnetosphere, the magnetic fields that surround our planet, and its inner bubble of cold material called the plasmasphere.

Source: NASA

Image credit: Sandel, B. R., et al., Space Sci. Rev., 109, 25, 2003 - Earth's plasmasphere and plume as measured by IMAGE's Extreme Ultraviolet Imager.

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