How are electrons lost? ELFIN will get an answer soon

How are electrons lost? ELFIN will get an answer soon

An artistic vision of the Van Allen belts, showing the field lines of the Earth and the trajectories of the charged particles they captured. Two ELFIN satellites are displayed in their oblique polar orbit (yellow color)

300 miles above the surface of our planet, near-Earth space is seething with activity. This is where the Van Allen belts begin - a pair of concentric rings of rapidly moving particles and intense radiation with a coverage of 30,000 miles into space. For the most part, particles are bounded by a special region rotating along the magnetic field lines of the Earth. But sometimes they get too close and crash into the earth’s atmosphere, creating a wonderful diffused red glow that potentially negatively affects communication and GPS satellites.

The new CubeSat ELFIN mission will explore one of the processes that allows energy electrons to leave Van Allen belts and end up on Earth. ELFIN plan to launch on September 15, 2018 from Vandenberg Air Force Base (California). When magnetic storms form in near-Earth space, they produce waves pushing the Earth’s magnetic field lines and knocking electrons out of their belts, causing them to “sink” into our atmosphere. ELFIN seeks to be the first to simultaneously monitor this process and test the causal mechanism by measuring magnetic waves and the resulting “lost” electrons.

How are electrons lost? ELFIN will get an answer soon

Satellites CubeSat in the ELFIN project

ELFIN - CubeSat mission (small and light satellites 10 x 10 x 10 cm 3). The program uses two identical satellites to measure how the deposited electrons change in space and time. 250 students worked on the project for 5 years.

Small satellites play a significant role in modern research, technology demonstrations, research papers and NASA training. These miniature vehicles provide an inexpensive platform for agency missions, including the exploration of planetary spaces, Earth observations, the basic science of Earth and space, as well as the development of scientific tools for research, such as advanced laser communications, satellite communications and autonomous movement capabilities.

On the launch day, ELFIN will travel as an additional load on the Delta-2 rocket along with the ICESat-2 mission (measures the thickness of ice sheets, glaciers, sea ice, etc., to document the earth’s cryosphere).

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