aurora
News & Events

News

 

July 25, 2017:

THEMIS/ARTEMIS researcher awarded AGU Medal (continued from front page):

Wen Li (Boston University and UCLA) was recently awarded the 2017 AGU Macelwane Medal. Wen's work on whistler mode chorus and other inner magnetosphere instabilities using predominantly THEMIS data between 2007 and 2014, and more recently adding Van Allen Probes and Juno data to her studies, has made significant contributions to wave particle interactions in planetary magnetospheres. Congratulations Wen!


James B. Macelwane Medal

The James B. Macelwane Medal is given annually to three or up to five honorees in recognition for "significant contributions to the geophysical sciences by an outstanding early career scientist." Established in 1961, the Macelwane Medal was renamed in 1986 in honor of former AGU president James B. Macelwane (1953–1956). Renowned for his contributions to geophysics, Macelwane was deeply interested in teaching and encouraging young scientists.

Source:
AGU Medal Recipients Press Release

About the James B. Macelwane Medal

July 11, 2017:

THEMIS research chosen as JGR Editor's Highlight (continued from front page):

The paper by Terry Liu et al. "Statistical study of particle acceleration in the core of foreshock transients," was selected as an Editor's Highlight in JGR. Particle energization is a key process in space plasmas. This paper presents a statistical study of ion and electron energization in the core of foreshock transients, showing that the energization of ions and electrons are different. It also shows that the ion and election energization are positively correlated with the solar wind speed. Way to go Terry!


Computer simulation of Earth's magnetosphere foreshock region, showing the formation of spontaneous hot flow anomalies (SHFAs). X1 and X2 represent hypothetical spacecraft. Credit: N. Omidi, Solana Scientific, 2016.

JGR Highlight

Source: Liu, T. Z., V. Angelopoulos, H. Hietala, and L. B. Wilson III (2017), Statistical study of particle acceleration in the core of foreshock transients, J. Geophys. Res. Space Physics, 122, doi:10.1002/2017JA024043.

Omidi, N., J. Berchem, D. Sibeck, and H. Zhang (2016), Impacts of spontaneous hot flow anomalies on the magnetosheath and magnetopause, J. Geophys. Res. Space Physics, 121, 3155–3169, doi:10.1002/2015JA022170.


June 30, 2017:

Study using THEMIS on front cover of GRL:

Chosen as the June cover of Geophysical Research Letters, a paper by Zhao et al. investigated properties of hot flow anomalies (HFA), which generated ultra-low frequency (ULF) waves observed by multiple spacecraft and ground based observatories. Nearly monochromatic Pc3 ULF standing Alfvén waves generated by an HFA were observed by THEMIS, GOES spacecraft and ground stations. The Pc3 ULF waves were observed at dawn, noon, and dusk sectors, as well as the nightside, indicating that the Pc3 ULF wave response of the magnetosphere to the HFA is global. These results show that the impact of HFAs to the magnetosphere is much stronger than what we thought before.



Link: Zhao, L. L., H. Zhang, and Q. G. Zong (2017), Global ULF waves generated by a hot flow anomaly, Geophys. Res. Lett., 44, 5283–5291, doi:10.1002/2017GL073249.

June 16, 2017:

THEMIS auroral researchers highlighted in Scientia Magazine:

Space physicists Dr Yukitoshi (Toshi) Nishimura and Dr Ying Zou, along with their colleagues at Boston University and at UCLA, study the interactions between Earth’s atmosphere and energy that flows from the solar wind to determine how the Northern Lights – and the Southern Lights – get their beauty.



Especially at night from earliest childhood, most of us have been struck by the wonders of Nature that surround us. The blue seas, the verdant forests, the colourful birds and fascinating animals – all of these have at one time or another awed us with their beauty and fascination. But one special sight that has drawn human attention from the dawn of history is the twinkling, always moving but somehow unchanging, night sky. The stars, the planets, the romance of the Universe – it appears to be moving around us just outside our reach. It was this very sight that inspired Dr. Toshi Nishimura to make space physics his life’s work. "I was a kid who liked to watch stars and think about undiscovered worlds in the universe," he tells Scientia. "One day my parents bought me a small telescope and I was excited by watching Saturn's rings, the Jovian satellites, lunar craters and comets." This became his passion. So when Dr. Nishimura went to college, he took lectures of space science and electromagnetism, and soaked up his professors' enthusiasm about space. That energy simply whet his curiosity even more, so he decided to study the science of space.

But there is one particular phenomenon of the night sky, one that people in many parts of the world never see, that is perhaps the most stunning of all the night's visions – the auroras, those hypnotic shows of dancing lights that fill the skies, especially near or after dark in the higher latitudes. In the northern hemisphere, it is called the aurora borealis or Northern Lights, while south of the equator, it is the aurora australis or Southern Lights. Often highlighted in movies and television programmes set in extreme northern locations, auroras are usually depicted as pale green or pink. However, auroras have been seen in shades of red, yellow, green, blue, and violet.




Link: Berg, N., et al. (2017), Studying The Auroras And What Makes Them Shine, Scientia 113, June 2017.

January 31, 2017:

THEMIS results highlighted in journal Physics of Plasmas:

Physics of Plasmas editors selected the article "Ion motion in a polarized current sheet" as a SCILIGHT summary. Congrats to first author and UCLA undergraduate student Ethan Tsai for his first publication!

Constantly buffeted by the solar wind, Earth's magnetosphere captures and explosively releases some of that solar energy as particle heat and space electrical currents, threatening astronauts, satellites, and the electrical grid. Key to understanding our dynamic magnetosphere is the study of its flowing plasmas, or charged particles, and their electromagnetic fields.


Cartoon depiction of the Earth's magnetosphere, with the current sheet region on the right and the domain of enhanced electron/suppressed ion currents. Credit: E. Masongsong/A.V. Artemyev, UCLA EPSS

Particle behavior within the equatorial current sheet, a thin but dynamic plasma layer found in planetary magnetospheres, is poorly understood despite its importance in accelerating particles and sourcing intense currents during solar storms. Theory suggests that positively-charged ions in thin current sheets should produce a strong diamagnetic current density, yet this does not always fit observations. Researchers at UCLA explain this discrepancy in the January 2017 issue of Physics of Plasmas. They found that the decoupling of ion and electron motions can, at times, generate a new electric field that significantly alters current sheet structure and charged particle motions, effectively reducing the current density. In addition, previously under-appreciated "transient" ions actually play a significant role in regulating the net current. These findings show that modeled electric fields of typical magnitude can influence transient ion motion and modify the net current from being ion-dominated to electron-dominated quite rapidly. Using THEMIS spacecraft measurements, the researchers showed that this model corroborates with observations in Earth’s magnetosphere. This new theoretical analysis will improve our plasma models and help scientists understand the physics of planetary and laboratory current sheets.

Citation: Tsai, E., A.V. Artemyev, V. Angelopoulos (2017), Ion motion in a polarized current sheet, Physics of Plasmas, 24, 012908, doi:10.1063/1.4975017.

November 14, 2016:

THEMIS finds unusual origins of high-energy electrons:

Congratulations to Wilson et al. for their paper "Relativistic Electrons Produced by Foreshock Disturbances Observed Upstream of Earth's Bow Shock," selected as an Editor's Highlight in the journal Physical Review Letters. They describe the novel acceleration of electrons in the ion foreshock, which can inform our understanding of other collisionless shock processes such as coronal mass ejections and supernovae. Using observations from NASA's THEMIS mission, they show that the turbulent ion foreshock region can accelerate electrons up to speeds approaching the speed of light. Such extremely fast particles have been observed in near-Earth space and many other places in the universe, but the mechanisms that accelerate them have not yet been concretely understood.

The research finds electrons can be accelerated to extremely high speeds in a near-Earth region farther from Earth than previously thought possible – leading to new inquiries about what causes the acceleration. These findings may change the accepted theories on how electrons can be accelerated not only in shocks near Earth, but also throughout the universe. Having a better understanding of how particles are energized will help scientists and engineers better equip spacecraft and astronauts to deal with these particles, which can cause equipment to malfunction and affect space travelers.



An artist's rendering (not to scale) of the electron energization process, with spiralling electrons in yellow, the interplanetary magnetic field lines in light blue, the ion foreshock in orange, the bowshock in red, and magnetosphere in teal. Credit: E. Masongsong/UCLA EPSS/NASA

"This affects pretty much every field that deals with high-energy particles, from studies of cosmic rays to solar flares and coronal mass ejections, which have the potential to damage satellites and affect astronauts on expeditions to Mars," said Lynn Wilson, lead author of the paper on these results at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

The results, published in Physical Review Letters, on Nov. 14, 2016, describe how such particles may get accelerated in specific regions just beyond Earth's magnetic field and can gain energy through electromagnetic activity in the foreshock region itself.


This image represents one of the traditional proposed mechanisms for accelerating particles across a shock, called a shock drift acceleration. The electrons (yellow) and protons (blue) can be seen moving in the collision area where two hot plasma bubbles collide (red vertical line). The cyan arrows represent the magnetic field and the light green arrows, the electric field. Credits: NASA Goddard's Scientific Visualization Studio/Tom Bridgman, data visualizer

The THEMIS spacecraft found electrons accelerated to extremely high energies which lasted less than a minute, but were much higher than the average energy of particles in the region, and much higher than can be explained by collisions alone. Simultaneous observations from the additional Heliophysics spacecraft, Wind and STEREO, showed no solar radio bursts or interplanetary shocks, so the high-energy electrons did not originate from solar activity.

"This is a puzzling case because we're seeing energetic electrons where we don’t think they should be, and no model fits them," said David Sibeck, co-author and THEMIS project scientist at NASA Goddard. "There is a gap in our knowledge, something basic is missing."

The electrons also could not have originated from the bow shock, as had been previously thought. If the electrons were accelerated in the bow shock, they would have a preferred movement direction and location – in line with the magnetic field and moving away from the bow shock in a small, specific region. However, the observed electrons were moving in all directions, not just along magnetic field lines. Additionally, the bow shock can only produce energies at roughly one tenth of the observed electrons’ energies. Instead, the cause of the electrons’ acceleration was found to be within the foreshock region itself.


This visualization represents one of the traditional proposed mechanisms for accelerating particles across a shock, called a shock drift acceleration. The electrons (yellow) and protons (blue) can be seen moving in the collision area where two hot plasma bubbles collide (red vertical line). The cyan arrows represent the magnetic field and the light green arrows, the electric field. Credits: NASA Goddard's Scientific Visualization Studio/Tom Bridgman, data visualizer

"It seems to suggest that incredibly small scale things are doing this because the large scale stuff can't explain it," Wilson said. High-energy particles have been observed in the foreshock region for more than 50 years, but until now, no one had seen the high-energy electrons originate from within the foreshock region. This is partially due to the short timescale on which the electrons are accelerated, as previous observations had averaged over several minutes, which may have hidden any event. THEMIS gathers observations much more quickly, making it uniquely able to see the particles. Next, the researchers intend to gather more observations from THEMIS to determine the specific mechanism behind the electrons' acceleration.

For more specific details, please refer to the THEMIS Science Nugget Summary here.

NASA Press Release:
Johnson-Groh, Mara. "NASA Finds Unusual Origins of High-Energy Electrons"

Citation:
Wilson III, L.B., D.G. Sibeck, D.L. Turner, A. Osmane, D. Caprioli, and V. Angelopoulos (2016), Relativistic electrons produced by foreshock disturbances observed upstream of the Earth's bow shock,Phys. Rev. Lett. Vol. 117(21), doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.117.215101.


September 12, 2016:

THEMIS sees auroras dance to the rhythm of the magnetosphere:

Using the THEMIS probes, ground magnetometers and all-sky cameras, Panov et al. describe the link between an oscillating magnetic field line in the magnetotail and a discrete patch of brightening aurora, published in the journal Nature Physics.

The majestic aurora has captivated humans for millennia, yet the mysterious lights' electromagnetic nature and connection to solar activity were only realized in the last 150 years. Detailed study of the aurora has finally become possible in recent decades with coordinated multi-satellite observations, and worldwide networks of ground-based magnetic sensors and cameras. Using data from NASA's THEMIS mission, an international team of scientists observed Earth's vibrating magnetic field at an altitude of 40,000 miles, more than 5 times the Earth's diameter, while simultaneously capturing the northern lights dancing in the night sky over Canada. Their findings, reported in the journal Nature Physics, are the first to directly map the back-and-forth motion of this distant magnetic field and the resulting electrical currents to a particular region of brightening aurora in Earth's upper atmosphere. This is an important link in understanding and eventually predicting how solar activity and space electricity can impact our technological infrastructure.


An artist's rendering (not to scale) of a cross-section of the magnetosphere, with the solar wind on the left in yellow and magnetic field lines emanating from the Earth in blue. The five THEMIS probes were well-positioned to directly observe one particular magnetic field line as it oscillated back and forth roughly every six minutes. In this unstable environment, electrons in near-Earth space, depicted as white dots, stream rapidly down magnetic field lines towards Earth's poles. There, they interact with oxygen and nitrogen particles in the upper atmosphere, releasing photons and brightening a specific region of the aurora. Credits: Emmanuel Masongsong/UCLA EPSS/NASA

The Earth is connected to the sun via the solar wind, an outward flow of electromagnetic radiation and charged particles (plasma) that affects all the planets, moons, comets, and asteroids in our solar system. These interactions, collectively known as space weather, include solar flares and violent plasma eruptions that could jam radio signals, damage weather, communications and GPS satellites, or even disable our global electrical power grid. Luckily for us, Earth has a spinning, molten metal core that generates a magnetic force field known as the magnetosphere. Magnetic field lines, like immense loops that extend outward from the Earth's north and south poles, form a giant protective bubble that shields us from most harmful space weather.

Under the right conditions, however, some solar wind particles and energy can enter the magnetosphere and subsequently be released in powerful bursts that can power the auroras, called a substorm. The magnetic field lines surrounding our planet vibrate wildly and mobilize the surrounding plasma, causing electrons to stream along the magnetic field lines until they fall into Earth's poles. The electrons collide with atmospheric oxygen and nitrogen atoms, which then emit the familiar green and red/blue colors of the aurora. This process is like a cosmic electric guitar string, whose motion is converted to an electrical current that flows into a distant amplified speaker, but instead of a note it results in an epic plasma light show!

Animation of a substorm and the flow of electrons along magnetic field lines that powers the auroras. Credit: NASA

In 2007 NASA launched THEMIS's five satellites to make coordinated measurements of space plasmas and ground auroras, in order to understand this energy release. In the study reported in Nature Physics, the space and ground assets were particularly well-positioned to capture the motion of the oscillating magnetic field lines together with the aurora they produced. The oscillation frequency was a mere one cycle every six minutes, yet the field line stretched back and forth by as much as two Earth diameters and the power produced, about 10GW, dwarfed the generating capacity of the largest nuclear power plants. Ground-based magnetic sensors across Canada and Greenland recorded the inflowing electrical currents, while specialized all-sky cameras captured the aurora as it brightened and dimmed, appearing to dance in lock-step with the six minute period of the vibrating magnetic field line. To verify this correlation, the researchers compared the electromagnetic energy released deep in the magnetosphere with the amount dissipated in the Earth's upper atmosphere. "We were delighted to see such a strong match," said Evgeny Panov, lead author and researcher at the Space Research Institute, of the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Graz. "These observations reveal the missing link in the conversion of magnetic energy to particle energy that powers the aurora."

Top right: animated computer model of the magnetic field line oscillating once every six minutes, streaming electrons Earthward with every contraction. Bottom right: actual spacecraft data plot showing auroral brightness, electric current over time, and magnetic field line distance from Earth. Bottom left: ionospheric electric current map showing inflowing (red) and outflowing (blue) electrons, derived from ground magnetometer observations. Top left: all-sky camera composite video showing auroral brightening, coinciding with inward magnetic field motion and electron influx into the ionosphere every six minutes. The five colored crosses represent the THEMIS probe positions with respect to the magnetic field line’s origin in the magnetosphere. Credit: E. Panov, IWF Graz.

The most intense geomagnetic storm on record occurred in 1859 when space weather phenomena affected few people, whereas today a broad range of industries and infrastructure would be crippled by such a space storm. With the continued growth of the commercial space industry, space tourism, and increasing dependence on GPS positioning for automated cars and aircraft, accurate space weather forecasting and alerts are becoming ever more crucial. THEMIS is a key component of this research fleet, refining our ability to make higher-fidelity space weather models. "Even after nearly ten years, the probes are still in great health, and our growing network of magnetometers and all-sky cameras continue to generate high quality data," said Vassilis Angelopoulos, co-author and THEMIS principal investigator at UCLA.

NASA Press Release:
Tran, Lina. "NASA's THEMIS Sees Auroras Move to the Rhythm of Earth's Magnetic Field"

Citation:
E. V. Panov, W. Baumjohann, R. A. Wolf, R. Nakamura, V. Angelopoulos, J. M. Weygand, M. V. Kubyshkina. Magnetotail energy dissipation during an auroral substorm. Nature Physics, 2016; DOI: 10.1038/nphys3879


July 29, 2016:

THEMIS observations of dipolarization fronts selected as AGU Research Spotlight:

THEMIS explains the origin of a new electrical current system in Earth's tail. The interaction between the solar wind and the Earth's magnetic field draws out the Earth's magnetosphere into a long, tapered "magnetotail." Within the magnetotail, intense magnetic fields emanating from magnetic reconnection move towards Earth and accelerate ambient charged particles in their path, converting magnetic energy to particle energy. Using observations from NASA's THEMIS spacecraft, researchers found that these interactions produce a characteristic decrease in the magnetic field in the area just preceding the moving front. These pockets of low magnetic field are important as they create conditions for particle trapping and further acceleration.


A long and thin current sheet (white dotted line) is embedded at the equatorial plane of in the magnetotail. A DF (red dashed line) is characterized by a sudden increase of northward magnetic field which propagates towards the Earth (red arrow). The DF is detected by three THEMIS spacecraft whose observations show a current density reduction ahead of the DF. Computer simulations found that the current density reduction is due to the generation of an electrostatic field (shown by the color coded region ahead of the DF, orange means the electric field’s direction is towards north and blue means south) originating from the ion reflection by the DF. Note that the structures’ spatial scale is enlarged for a better illustration. Image Credit: Emmanuel Masongsong, UCLA.

To understand why they arise, the researchers simulated the scenario with a computer model that follows the particles and their electromagnetic fields self-consistently. They found that ambient ions are reflected by the reconnected magnetic field's passage but the lighter electrons stay behind. This ion-electron separation generates a small electrostatic field which drives a new current system, ahead of and opposite the reconnected magnetic field. This new current system results in the pockets of decreased magnetic field. Both currents and fields were observed consistent with the simulation in the THEMIS data. This understanding resolves how some of the most complex interactions within Earth's magnetosphere occur, helping us track how energy is transferred from the solar wind to Earth's environment.

For more specific details, please refer to the THEMIS Science Nugget Summary here.

AGU Research Spotlight:
Yan, W. (2016), Mysteries of the magnetosphere, Eos, 97, doi:10.1029/2016EO055715.

Citation:
Lu, S., A. V. Artemyev, V. Angelopoulos, Q. Lu, and J. Liu (2016), On the current density reduction ahead of dipolarization fronts, J. Geophys. Res. Space Physics, 121, 4269–4278, doi:10.1002/2016JA022754.


July 25, 2016:

THEMIS/ARTEMIS researcher awarded AGU Medal:

Toshi Nishimura (AOS/UCLA) is the recently announced recipient of the 2016 AGU Macelwane Medal! Toshi's work on substorms using THEMIS, ARTEMIS and ground based observatories has revolutionized our understanding of magnetosphere-ionosphere coupling, including topics such as flow burst coupling to north-south arcs, chorus wave coupling to pulsating aurorae and the role of polar cap transients in driving nightside reconnection (among other things). Congratulations Toshi!


James B. Macelwane Medal

The James B. Macelwane Medal is given annually to three or up to five honorees in recognition for "significant contributions to the geophysical sciences by an outstanding early career scientist." Established in 1961, the Macelwane Medal was renamed in 1986 in honor of former AGU president James B. Macelwane (1953–1956). Renowned for his contributions to geophysics, Macelwane was deeply interested in teaching and encouraging young scientists.

Source:
AGU Medal Recipients Press Release

About the James B. Macelwane Medal

June 20, 2016:

THEMIS study featured on cover of GRL, GEM Outstanding Student Poster Award:

UCLA PhD student Terry Z. Liu used THEMIS data from 2008 to profile the turbulent solar wind plasma upstream of the magnetosphere. Since the solar wind is moving at supersonic speeds, when it encounters the magnetopause, a collisionless shockwave forms. Some reflected ions can be energized to form a "foreshock bubble," which Terry found can in turn form its own foreshock. The two THEMIS probes happened to be in just the right place and time to witness the bubble and the reflected ions in close succession, helping to reveal the complex geometry of the plasma interactions. Way to go Terry!


A foreshock bubble's shock, GRL Cover image. Credit: Emmanuel Masongsong and Heli Hietala, UCLA; NASA EYES.

The image above is an artist's representation of a baby foreshock emerging from its parent foreshock. Incoming solar wind ion beams (blue arrows) get reflected (spiral purple arrows) at Earth's bow shock (red, far right). These reflected ions form Earth’s parent foreshock (faint orange glow) and gradually become diffuse (blurred spiral purple arrows). In this study, a solar wind discontinuity was observed by the THEMIS-B spacecraft (far left), causing some of the reflected foreshock ions to become trapped and thermalized (center, purple arrows bending to become yellow arrows in random directions). These hot ions expand and form a foreshock bubble with a hot core (yellow) and its own shock (red) due to fast expansion. The THEMIS-C spacecraft (center) observed that this new shock can also reflect solar wind ion beams (blue arrows) and form a baby foreshock (spiral purple arrows with orange glow).

For more specific details, please refer to the THEMIS Science Nugget Summary here.

Citation:
Liu, T. Z., H. Hietala, V. Angelopoulos, and D. L. Turner (2016), Observations of a new foreshock region upstream of a foreshock bubble's shock, Geophys. Res. Lett., 43, 4708–4715, doi:10.1002/2016GL068984.


February 25, 2016:

THEMIS featured in The Guardian, for new popular book on the aurora:

Featured in The Guardian: author and plasma physicist Dr. Melanie Windridge intertwines the cultural and scientific history of the aurora, and shares THEMIS mission breakthroughs in her new book, "Aurora: In Search of the Northern Lights​​​​​." Dr. Windridge reveals the rich history and enduring mysteries of the northern lights, from the ancient folklore of Arctic peoples to her own polar research adventures, elaborating on the latest findings about space weather and the complex mechanisms of the aurora. She also discusses the story behind the THEMIS mission, and the groundbreaking science fostered by its expansive array of All-Sky Imagers and magnetometers across the northern hemisphere, which continue to help researchers piece together critical elements of the auroral puzzle.


Credit: Harper Collins

"Canada has a vast amount of land underneath the auroral oval, so imaging the northern lights is an important research activity. This composite image from several cameras looking directly upwards shows how a twisted band of aurora can stretch all across the American continent. But it’s not simply pretty. Our atmosphere is the screen where the drama of the magnetosphere plays out. By studying the aurora we can learn about the processes happening far out in space." -M. Windridge


Mosaic of the aurora from the THEMIS All-sky imagers. Credit: NASA GSFC/SVS

Source:
The Northern Lights Illuminated - in Pictures, featured on theguardian.com

The book was published by Harper Collins, more details can be found on the author's website.


June 15, 2015:

THEMIS observes first rising-tone magnetosonic waves:

Magnetosonic (MS) waves, also known as equatorial noise, are electromagnetic emissions occurring near the magnetic equator. They get their energy by interacting with protons trapped in Earth's magnetic field, spiraling around magnetic field lines. Historically, the frequencies of MS waves were believed to be "temporally continuous" - that is, varying smoothly, like a trombone player sliding from one note to the next. This indicated a simple linear interaction between MS waves and protons. Fu et al. report a possible complication to this picture: a sharp rising-tone in their spectrogram, like a flute player performing a series of runs and trills.



Top panel, actual MS rising tone data acquired by THEMIS. Bottom panel, artist rendition of THEMIS probes detecting MS waves within the ring current (magenta), near the boundary between the plasmasphere (green) and the outer Van Allen radiation belt (aqua).

A rising-tone suggests more complicated, nonlinear series of interactions between the MS waves and protons. Scientists have observed rising-tone features in other kinds of plasma waves, including chorus and electromagnetic ion cyclotron (EMIC) waves. In those waves, the web of forces between the particles create currents that boost the wave’s frequency. But scientists had never before seen this behavior in MS waves. The team used data collected from two specific events recorded by NASA’s THEMIS mission. The THEMIS spacecraft orbits in the magnetosphere near Earth’s magnetic equator and collects data from magnetic storms, the boundary of the magnetosphere on the dayside, and Earth’s radiation belts.

The first event, observed in June 2010, revealed electromagnetic emissions of rising-tone MS waves. Fu et al. studied a second rising-tone MS wave event, observed in August 2010, to eliminate the possibility that the previous rising-tone MS wave emissions were a one-time event. On the basis of the rising-tone feature of MS waves, the scientists concluded that MS waves were possibly generated from nonlinear interactions. The team found that the power of chorus and EMIC waves were less than those of the MS waves, indicating that protons interact less efficiently in those waves than with MS waves.


Zoomed in portion of a 3min span of rising tone MS waves captured by THEMIS-A on February 26, 2015.

In this video, you can listen to a sonification of the magnetosonic waves while following along on the above plot. Since the bass frequencies of these waves are at 80-120Hz near the lower limit of human hearing, the rising tone is subtle yet audible. Audio data produced by Huishan Fu with further processing by E. Masongsong.


For more specific details, please refer to the THEMIS Science Nugget Summary here.

Source:
Eos.org Research Highlights

Citation:
Fu, H. S., J. B. Cao, Z. Zhima, Y. V. Khotyaintsev, V. Angelopoulos, O. Santolík, Y. Omura, U. Taubenschuss, L. Chen, and S. Y. Huang (2014), First observation of rising-tone magnetosonic waves, Geophys. Res. Lett., 41, 7419–7426, doi:10.1002/2014GL061867.


May 11, 2015:

THEMIS reveals surprising influence of Kelvin-Helmholtz waves on the magnetosphere:

Kelvin-Helmholtz waves are responsible for the "breaking wave" pattern made in clouds, the ocean's surface, and the swirling atmosphere of Jupiter. The periodic turbulence is caused by a velocity shear at the interface between two layers moving at different speeds, such as at the magnetopause, where the solar wind and magnetospheric plasma interact.


The figure is from an OpenGGCM magnetosphere simulation and shows, color coded, current density in the equatorial plane.



Using data from NASA’s THEMIS mission, Joachim "Jimmy" Raeder and his Ph.D. student Shiva Kavosi of the University of New Hampshire found that K-H waves occur 20% of the time, can significantly alter the magnetopause and thus change the energy levels of our planet’s radiation belts. The K-H waves can stimulate magnetospheric ultra-low frequency waves, which transfer energy from large-scale motions to alter the behavior of charged particles on tiny scales.

THEMIS data also show that K-H waves occur more often when the IMF is northward (~40%), though still significantly during southward IMF (~10%), which is much higher than previously detected. The waves are also found when least expected, during slow solar wind (~270km/s).

"Previous missions were either too short or the observations didn’t occur in the right place," Raeder says. "THEMIS's elliptical orbits achieved over one thousand magnetopause crossings and provided unprecedented observations. We didn't have a database like this before and therefore couldn't do the analysis."

Source:
UNH Space Science Center Press Release

Citation:
Kavosi, S., et al (2015), "Ubiquity of Kelvin-Helmholtz waves at Earth's magnetopause," Nature Comm., 6, 7019, doi:10.1038/ncomms8019.


February 17, 2015:

THEMIS results on plasmaspheric hiss featured in Journal of Geophysics Research:

Congratulations to Kyung-Chan Kim, Dae-Young Lee and Yuri Shprits for their featured JGR paper using THEMIS data, entitled "Dependence of plasmaspheric hiss on solar wind parameters and geomagnetic activity and modeling of its global distribution." The results demonstrate accurate modeling of plasmaspheric hiss waves in varying solar wind conditions.

Plasmaspheric hiss is a type of electromagnetic wave generally observed in the dense plasma region in the Earth's magnetosphere, and it affects the evolution of high energy electrons trapped around the Earth. Previous researchers have found the geomagnetic index, AE* (the maximum value of AE index during the preceding three hours) or Kp as the optimal input in hiss modeling. This work shows the direct correlation of the waves with the time-integrated, time-lagged solar wind parameters for the first time. The waves depend on past solar wind speed and southward interplanetary magnetic field. Hiss waves do not, in particular, depend on different types of storms (CME or CIR driven), based on their global distributions of occurrence rates.


Top panels: Variations of solar wind parameters and geomagnetic indices. Bottom panel: Model output of hiss amplitudes for CME-derived storm.

"To predict and understand plasma waves, we are using innovative data analysis tools that have become increasing popular in a number of areas of engineering and science," said co-author Yuri Shprits. "With the help of machine learning tools commonly referred to as 'neural networks' we can now rather accurately predict the properties of plasma waves, which helps us to predict the dynamics of relativistic electrons that are hazardous to satellites in space."

Citation: Kim, K.-C., D.-Y. Lee, and Y. Shprits (2015), Dependence of plasmaspheric hiss on solar wind parameters and geomagnetic activity and modeling of its global distribution, J. Geophys. Res. Space Physics, 120, doi:10.1002/2014JA020687.

January 19, 2015:

New book on magnetotail physics featuring THEMIS/ARTEMIS:

All magnetized planets in our solar system (Mercury, Earth, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune) interact strongly with the solar wind and possess well developed magnetotails. It is not only the strongly magnetized planets that have magnetotails, however. Mars and Venus have no global intrinsic magnetic field, yet they possess induced magnetotails. Comets have magnetotails that are formed by the draping of the interplanetary magnetic field. In the case of planetary satellites (moons), the magnetotail refers to the wake region behind the satellite in the flow of either the solar wind or the magnetosphere of its parent planet.

The largest magnetotail of all in our solar system is the heliotail, the “magnetotail” of the heliosphere. The variety of solar wind conditions, planetary rotation rates, ionospheric conductivity, and physical dimensions provide an outstanding opportunity to extend our understanding of the influence of these factors on magnetotail processes and structures. In Magnetotails in the Solar System, all these magnetotails are described in tutorials and reviews.

Volume highlights include:

• Discussion on why a magnetotail is a fundamental problem of magnetospheric physics
• Unique collection of tutorials on a large range of magnetotails in our solar system
• In-depth reviews comparing magnetotail processes at Earth with other magnetotail structures found throughout the heliosphere
Citation: Keiling, A., C. Jackman, P. Delamere (Eds.) (2014), Magnetotails in the Solar System, Geophys. Monogr. Ser., vol. 207, 424 pp., AGU, Washington, D. C.

January 15, 2015:

THEMIS data shows "magnetic bubbles" may drive auroral substorms, AGU Research Spotlight:

The Earth's magnetic field extends out into space, influencing charged particles in a region known as the magnetosphere. The magnetosphere is short and squat on the side of earth that faces the sun – the dayside – but it has a long tail extending away from the star on the nightside. This magnetotail is shaped by the powerful force of the solar wind, and huge amounts of plasma flow within it. On Earth, we see the effects of this flow in the dazzling lights of the auroras.

Dramatic bursts of energy in the magnetotail, known as substorms, cause the aurora to flicker and dance when they send ions tumbling earthward, but their cause has long remained a mystery. Now Pritchett et al. propose that substorms may arise from the properties of Earth-sized "bubbles" of low–density plasma that ride magnetic field lines through the magnetotail toward Earth.


Left: Magnetic bubbles in the Earth's magnetotail, moving Earthward (down) to fuel substorms. Right: THEMIS all-sky imagers (ASI) record the evolution of a streamer in response to bubbles.


Using a computer model that simulates how charged particles behave in magnetic fields, the researchers show that these bubbles preferentially form in parts of the magnetotail where entropy decreases with distance from the Earth. The properties of these bubbles and the "auroral streamers" they send earthward change as they move through the magnetic field. Eventually, these changes trigger a full-blown substorm, disrupting the structure of the aurora.

The researchers' model helps explain the link between the magnetic perturbations that seem to accompany substorms and auroral streamers. Their predictions also match observations of the structure and behavior of auroral streamers made by NASA's Time History of Events and macroscale Interactions during Substorms (THEMIS) suite of satellites.

Source: Rosen, J. (2015), Bubbles as a possible mechanism behind magnetic substorms, Eos, 96(1):27.

Pritchett, P. L., F. V. Coroniti, and Y. Nishimura (2014), The kinetic ballooning/interchange instability as a source of dipolarization fronts and auroral streamers, J. Geophys. Res. Space Physics, 119, 4723–4739, doi:10.1002/2014JA019890.


December 19, 2015:

THEMIS results highlight wave-particle interactions in magnetized collisionless shocks:

In the 1960s, scientists discovered a new kind of shock wave that traveled through space plasmas that did not rely upon collisions. Thus, they are known as a collisionless shock waves. These shocks are of great interest in multiple fields of research: they can produce radiation that can negatively impact commercial and military spacecraft operation, as well as the safety of humans in space.

But the mechanisms allowing these shocks to form has been a topic of great debate. Our recent work helps resolve some of these issues by confirming theories that predict how small-scale phenomena can control large-scale dynamics. These small-scale processes, on the order of tens of meters, can regulate structures at scales more than 1 million meters across.


A shock wave produced by a jet approaching the sound barrier, outlined by condensed water droplets which result from the shockwave shedding from the aircraft (Wikipedia.)


Common shock waves – such as those at the front of a supersonic jet -- occur when an obstacle moves faster than the speed of sound, that is, the speed of a compression wave through a fluid. Such shocks transform the bulk flow from supersonic to subsonic in a thin transition region called the shock ramp, where the lost kinetic energy is converted into heat. With common shock waves, this conversion occurs mostly through binary particle collisions, much like billiard balls colliding and recoiling. In Earth's atmosphere, these collisions occur over a short distance, ~1μm, but in the solar wind and magnetized bow shock in front of Earth, the distance can be as large as that between the Earth and the sun (1AU, or around 150 billion meters). On the other hand, the magnetized shock ramps were found to be less than one-millionth that size. There was no way these shocks could rely upon particle collisions taking place over billions of meters -- thus the name collisionless shock wave. But how could such shocks transform the incident bulk flow into heat in such short distances without collisions?


Artist's depiction of the solar wind piling up in at the magnetosphere boundary, creating a collisionless shock wave.


The results were surprising. First, we discovered that not only are small-scale waves ubiquitous in collisionless shock waves -- but they can be huge. In some cases, the wave amplitudes were so large, they contained as much energy density as is necessary to produce an aurora. Second, we found that the energy dissipation rates due to wave-particle interactions were also very large. So large, in fact, that they could exceed the large-scale dissipation rates by over 10,000 times. In other words, the wave-particle interactions need only be ~0.01% efficient and they could still regulate the large-scale structure of the shock.

This information about waves near Earth can also be extrapolated to inaccessible regions of space. We found that similar processes could provide enough energy to explain the heating of the solar corona, magnetic reconnection rates, and have implications for particle heating and acceleration around stars elsewhere in the universe. These results quantitatively show, for the first time, that small-scale phenomena can control the large-scale dynamics in collisionless plasmas.

Citation: Wilson et al., "Quantified energy dissipation rates in the terrestrial bow shock: 1. Analysis techniques and methodology" and "Quantified energy dissipation rates in the terrestrial bow shock: 2. Waves and dissipation," Journal of Geophysics Research.

Source: Wilson, L.B., Helio Highlights Archive


August 7, 2014:

THEMIS researcher wins first prize in student poster competition:

The Coupling, Energetics and Dynamics of Atmospheric Regions (CEDAR) workshop was held June 22-26, 2014, at the University of Washington, Seattle. There were 129 CEDAR student presenters, including 21 undergraduate first authors, where 103 posters were in the student poster competition. Prizes were a certificate and a textbook for the first place winners.

The judges picked first place Ionosphere-Thermosphere winner Beatriz Gallardo-Lacourt of UCLA with "Ionospheric Flow Structures Associated with Auroral Beading at the Substorm Auroral Onset." She received the book "Ionospheres: Physics, Plasma Physics, and Chemistry" courtesy of co-author Bob Schunk (USU) who signed the book.

Bea's work showed that extremely large, small-scale flows develop in precise association with each auroral bead (strong intensification) that is seen along the brightening auroral arc at substorm onset. This demonstrates critical features of the physics of the substorm onset process.

Source: http://cedarweb.hao.ucar.edu/wiki/index.php/2014_Workshop:Summary


June 1, 2014:

THEMIS researcher receives Young Scientist Award:

Japan's Society of Geomagnetism and Earth, Planetary and Space Sciences (SGEPSS) held a committee meeting on April 29, 2014 and made a decision to give the Obayashi Young Scientist Award to Yukitoshi Nishimura, for his research of magnetospheric and ionospheric phenomena using ground- and space-based measurements.

Toshi received this award as a result of his ground-breaking research on a variety of topics including energy flow to and from the ionosphere within the inner magnetosphere; fundamental, long-standing questions on the processes leading to an causing substorms; and the causes and magnetospheric source regions of pulsating and diffuse aurora.

Source: http://www.sgepss.org/sgepss/kaihou/kaihou220web.pdf


May 1, 2014:

THEMIS research featured in Journal of Geophysics Research:

The recent paper by Gabrielse et al., "Statistical characteristics of particle injections throughout the equatorial magnetotail" was selected as an Editor's Highlight by JGR, Space Physics.


(a) AL index. (b) Energy flux. (c) Energy flux (line spectra). Note that the ESA instrument goes near background levels around 02:00, 03:00, and 06:30 UT, explaining the behavior of the fitted channel between the ESA and SST instruments (26 keV). To avoid incorrectly selecting an injection from the fitted channel, we required that the energy flux at 26 keV be higher than that at 31 keV for selection. (d) Percent change in energy flux per minute [((Δj/j)/Δt)˙100] for each individual energy channel. Colors represent energy channels and correlate with the colors in the line spectra. Three consecutive energy channels must have a (Δj/j)/Δt that rises above the horizontal line at 25% for an injection to be selected. (e) Magnetic field in GSM coordinates. Increasing dipolarization is observed as each dipolarized flux bundle comes in, causing flux pileup around 04:00 UT. (f) Velocity in GSM coordinates. Flow reversals may represent vortices in the incoming flow and/or rebound in the flux pileup region. (g) Electric field in GSM coordinates calculated from −V × B.
Gabrielse et al., Figure 1: Seven electron injection events selected using specific criteria. Events 1 and 2: Dispersionless injections. Events 3–7: Dispersed injections.


Understanding the behavior of charged particles in the magnetotail

When the Sun spews charged particles toward the Earth, they can enter the magnetosphere and become energized as they move closer to the Earth’s surface. These energetic particles can induce the bright colors of auroras, disrupt navigational satellites, and even distort terrestrial telecommunications.

Previous research has found that the energization and transport of these particles—a process known as “particle injection”—may be correlated with the emergence of narrow, fast-flowing channels of plasma within the magnetosphere that travel earthward after energy is released in the Earth’s magnetotail. Curious about how far out these particle injections can be detected in the magnetotail, and whether or not they are actually caused by these narrow, fast-flowing bursts of plasma, Gabrielse et al. studied data from NASA's THEMIS mission, which observes large-scale space weather events beyond the orbits of geosynchronous satellites.

The authors found that energetic particle injections could, in fact, be seen approaching Earth well beyond the previously recorded distance of 6.6-12 Earth radii, even up to 30 Earth radii away and possible further. They also showed statistically that these particle injections are indeed related to the narrow channels of fast-flowing plasma, where particles are energized by the flow channels’ electric fields. Understanding how these particle injections behave at points within the radiation belts to distances greater than 30 Earth radii away will help scientists develop better forecasts of potentially damaging space weather events.

Also featured in JGR is a paper by Gallardo-Lacourt et al., "Coordinated SuperDARN THEMIS ASI observations of mesoscale flow bursts associated with auroral streamers."


Gallardo et al., Figure 1: Equatorward motion of the auroral streamer and the ionospheric flow channel obtained using the THEMIS ASI and Rankin Inlet SuperDARN radar on 14 January 2008. (a) The background flows before the auroral streamer propagated into the radar FOV. (b–g) The sequence of flow and auroral streamers. The solid blue line indicates magnetic midnight. The white lines correspond to 75 and 70 MLAT contours, respectively.


In their JGR featured article, Gallardo-Lacourt et al. [2014] investigated the structure of ionospheric "flow channels" and their relationship to the aurora, using THEMIS all-sky imagers and SuperDARN radar network. Auroral streamers observed by the all-sky images were invariably linked to equatorward ionospheric flow enhancements located to the east and poleward flow enhancements to the west of the streamer, consistent with the spatial relationship between flow shear and upward field-aligned current in the plasma sheet "flow bursts."

We are very proud of Christine and Bea's accomplishments and look forward to their continued successes!

Sources:
JGR Editor's Highlight: Understanding the behavior of charged particles in the magnetotail

Gabrielse, C., V. Angelopoulos, A. Runov, and D. L. Turner (2014), Statistical characteristics of particle injections throughout the equatorial magnetotail, J. Geophys. Res. Space Physics, 119, 2512–2535, doi:10.1002/2013JA019638.

Gallardo-Lacourt, B., Y. Nishimura, L. R. Lyons, S. Zou, V. Angelopoulos, E. Donovan, K. A. McWilliams, J. M. Ruohoniemi, and N. Nishitani (2014), Coordinated SuperDARN THEMIS ASI observations of mesoscale flow bursts associated with auroral streamers, J. Geophys. Res. Space Physics, 119, 142–150, doi:10.1002/2013JA019245.



March 7, 2014:

THEMIS observations of the plasmaspheric plume published in Science:


(Click for Animation) NASA's THEMIS mission observed how dense particles normally near Earth in a layer of the uppermost atmosphere called the plasmasphere can send a plume up through space to help protect against incoming solar particles during certain space weather events. Credit NASA/GSFC

Using THEMIS magnetopause observations and GPS-TEC measurements, Walsh et al. characterized the plasmaspheric plume and its modulating effect on dayside magnetic reconnection. The findings were published today in the journal Science. The Earth’s magnetic field, or magnetosphere, stretches from the planets core out into space, where it meets the solar wind, a stream of charged particles emitted by the sun. For the most part, the magnetosphere acts as a shield to protect the Earth from this high-energy solar activity. But when this field comes into contact with the sun's magnetic field — a process called "magnetic reconnection" — powerful electrical currents from the sun can stream into Earth’s atmosphere, whipping up geomagnetic storms and space weather phenomena that can affect high-altitude aircraft, as well as astronauts on the International Space Station.

In the March 7, 2014, issue of Science, Walsh and collaborators at MIT and NASA identified a process in the Earth’s magnetosphere that reinforces its shielding effect, keeping incoming solar energy at bay. By comparing observations from the ground and in space during a solar storm, they could characterize the solar wind energy as it crossed the boundary into the magnetosphere through reconnection.

Closer to Earth, there is a region of cold dense gas at the very top of our atmosphere, called the plasmasphere. GPS signals travel through the plasmasphere at different speeds depending on how thick or thin the plasmasphere is along the journey. Tracking the GPS radio signals, therefore, can help researchers map out the properties of the plasmasphere.

In combination with THEMIS data, the researchers showed that the tongue of this cold, dense plasmasphere material stretched all the way up to interfere with the magnetic reconnection point where the CME had made contact with the magnetopause. NASA's three THEMIS spacecraft were in the right place at the right time, flying through the magnetosphere's boundary approximately 45 minutes apart, and caught this interaction.The three sets of THEMIS observations demonstrated that the plume had a dramatic impact on the characteristics of the magnetic reconnection region, revealing a critical regulatory mechanism of magnetosphere interactions with the solar wind.

Sources:
NASA's THEMIS Discovers New Process that Protects Earth from Space Weather (NASA.gov)

A river of plasma, guarding against the sun (MIT News Office)

Walsh, B.M., J.C. Foster, P.J. Erickson, D.G. Sibeck (2014), Simultaneous Ground- and Space-Based Observations of the Plasmaspheric Plume and Reconnection, Science 343(6175): 1122-1125, DOI: 10.1126/science.1247212



Nov. 26, 2013:

THEMIS findings featured in AGU Journal Eos:


Electron heating in magnetic reconnection.

When magnetic field lines interact at the magnetopause—the boundary between the solar magnetic field and the Earth's magnetic field—a process known as magnetic reconnection causes magnetic energy to be converted into kinetic energy and heat. Magnetic reconnection is a collisionless process, and its dynamics are still not fully understood. Past studies of reconnection have produced conflicting findings as to whether, and, if so, how much, reconnection heats electrons. Although reconnection has been found to heat electrons to 10 million kelvins in the Earth's magnetotail, it does not appear to heat electrons in the solar wind.

Drawing on observations of 79 instances of magnetic reconnection as recorded by NASA's Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms (THEMIS) satellites, Phan et al. studied the extent to which various physical properties affect the magnitude and occurrence of electron bulk heating. The authors found that bulk electron heating depends primarily on the amount of available magnetic energy in the solar wind.

From their observations the authors empirically determined that around 2% of the magnetic energy in the solar wind is converted to bulk electron heating. This finding, they suggest, may be uinversal for plasmas in space as well as in the laboratory. It could help explain why there is strong electron heating in the Earth's magnetotail but essentially no heating in the solar wind during reconnection. They suggest that it could also be used to investigate the role of magnetic reconnection in heating the solar corona.

Sources: Eos Research Spotlight

Phan, T. D., M. A. Shay, J. T. Gosling, M. Fujimoto, J. F. Drake, G. Paschmann, M. Oieroset, J. P. Eastwood, and V. Angelopoulos (2013), Electron bulk heating in magnetic reconnection at Earth's magnetopause: Dependence on the inflow Alfvén speed and magnetic shear, Geophys. Res. Lett., 40, 4475–4480, doi:10.1002/grl.50917.



Nov. 8, 2013:

THEMIS-MMS Conjunctions: A Step Closer to Reality:



The recent maneuver campaign for the three THEMIS probes has been completed, and recent orbit determination has confirmed the maneuvers have been 100% successful. Between Sep. 25, 2013 and Oct. 22, 2013 we have executed a total of 19 maneuvers: There were 4 orbit change maneuvers, one attitude, and one spin rate adjustment per probe, and on September 24, we had our first ever collision avoidance maneuver for P3PD with a zero net change of the orbital period.

By lowering perigee and apogee altitudes we further increased our orbital drift. This final step in our preparation for the upcoming conjunctions with MMS in 2016 and 2017, originally planned for July, was delayed multiple times until early MMS thermal vacuum test results confirmed there are no major hurtles towards an MMS launch in late 2014. By doing so we traded as much as possible of our valuable drift time against the ability to account for a possible major launch delay of MMS into spring 2015 (which would have required imparting a drift in the reverse direction). Despite the recent MMS launch delay by one month there is still room for adjustments to preserve good quality lineups. We are therefore optimistic that we can still take full advantage of this very unique opportunity of THM-MMS conjunctions.

For the near term cooperation with the Van Allen Probes we increased the probe separation to about 7.5h. This nearly equal spread along the orbit was achieved through specific relative timing of the MMS-lineup maneuvers. And as you may have noticed, FS intervals have increased in duration to more typical 18-20hrs recently, thanks to the use of the White Sands antenna (thank you NASA).

All probes are in a clean spin rate window (low interference with FGM) and the attitudes have been optimized for the tail season in 2014 (sunward spin axis tilt) when we plan to return to smaller separations to obtain a second batch of 1-2Re inter-probe separation data. For the long term, THEMIS is on its way to be in the magnetotail during winter of 2016 and 2017 while again in conjunction with the GBOs! This will be an amazing opportunity to conduct Heliophysics System Observatory magnetotail studies.

Soon, there will be an update at SPDF, projecting the near and long term plans of THEMIS based on the post maneuver states. The current data at SPDF reflect the older long term plans based on only earlier maneuvers (from July), but will be updated soon. By having MMS orbits at SPDF as well, we plan to seek community feedback on how to best optimize the tetrahedral configuration of THEMIS around MMS.

We would like to use this opportunity to thank all of you who supported these maneuvers and in particular the flight dynamics, scheduling, and operation teams. We are confident that science will be well served with the outcome of all their hard work and that NASA will get the confirmation that their further support for THEMIS was worth their funding.


Sept. 22, 2013:

Third radiation belt formation:



(Click here for animation of third belt)

Congratulations to Yuri Shprits and colleagues for explaining the mechanism of creation of the remnant belt, a 3rd radiation belt in Earth’s magnetosphere using a combination of THEMIS, Van Allen probes data and modeling. The results, which appear on the Sep. 22 (2013) issue of Nature Phys. go a long way towards revealing the separate physical processes that affect different electron belts, including wave scattering, and the effects of cold plasmaspheric plasma.

Since the discovery of the Van Allen radiation belts in 1958, space scientists have believed these belts encircling the Earth consist of two doughnut-shaped rings of highly charged particles — an inner ring of high-energy electrons and energetic positive ions and an outer ring of high-energy electrons.

In February of this year, a team of Van Allen Probes scientists reported the surprising discovery of a previously unknown third radiation ring — a narrow one that briefly appeared between the inner and outer rings in September 2012 and persisted for a month (Baker et al., Science, Feb. 2013).

The above Van Allen Probe 2013 results confirmed earlier observations by THEMIS researchers (Turner et al., Nature Physics, Jan. 2012), showing the rapid loss of outer belt electrons through the magnetopause, creating a distinct “remnant” belt. The remnant belt has a lifetime of hours to days for low energy (<2MeV) particles, that is dictated by the particle losses due to various plasma waves (hiss or electromagnetic ion cyclotron – EMIC - waves). However, an equatorial >2MeV population, was present in the Van Allen Probe 2013 study event for many weeks. The new modeling results by Shprits et al., show what causes the stability of the equatorial >2MeV electrons: it is the presence of the plasmasphere that protects these particles from EMIC waves, and the lack of resonance of these particles with hiss waves inside the plasmasphere.

"In the past, scientists thought that all the electrons in the radiation belts around the Earth obeyed the same physics," said Yuri Shprits, a research geophysicist with the UCLA Department of Earth and Space Sciences. "We are finding now that radiation belts consist of different populations that are driven by very different physical processes."

Source: http://newsroom.ucla.edu/portal/ucla/ucla-scientists-explain-the-formation-248209.aspx

Nature Physics: http://www.nature.com/nphys/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nphys2760.html


March 28, 2013:

THEMIS/ARTEMIS International Team Sees Auroras:

The Spring THEMIS-ARTEMIS Science Working Group meeting brought researchers together from all over the world to share the latest findings on the magnetosphere, solar wind, and the moon. Even better, attendees were rewarded with a substorm and brilliant auroras on the closing night! The truly diverse group of 50+ space and atmospheric physics scientists represented 7 countries and 24 different institutions, all coming together to share the latest findings in the near-Earth plasma environment. The meeting discussions were inspiring and productive, though the greatest thrill was during a visit to the Poker Flat Research Range just north of Fairbanks. Even after decades of studying space physics, this was the first opportunity for many to witness the auroras' dazzling beauty in person.

At this state of the art facility, researchers stayed warm indoors (outside temp was -20F!) while patiently monitoring real-time solar wind measurements and ultra-sensitive CCD cameras displays. Periodically they would jump with excitement and a whir of outer garments as the early signs of a substorm appeared. Many were awestruck at their first sighting, and remarked on the surprising speed with which the green arcs consumed the sky. Many thanks to meeting organizer Dr. Hui Zhang and Dr. Don Hampton of University of Alaska for the Poker Flat tour, and to all attendees for their continuing contributions to THEMIS/ARTEMIS!!


(click thumbnails to enlarge)


February 19, 2013:

THEMIS 6th Year Anniversary:

Six Years in Space for THEMIS: Understanding the Magnetosphere Better Than Ever

On Earth, scientists can observe weather patterns, and more importantly can predict them, through the use of tens of thousands of weather observatories scattered around the globe. Up in the space surrounding Earth -- a space that seethes with its own space weather made of speeding charged particles and constantly changing magnetic fields that can impact satellites - there are only a handful of spacecraft to watch for solar and magnetic storms. The number of observatories has been growing over the last six years, however. Today these spacecraft have begun to provide the first multipoint measurements to better understand space weather events as they move through space, something impossible to track with a single spacecraft.

Helping to anchor that team of spacecraft is a NASA mission called THEMIS (Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms). THEMIS launched on Feb. 17, 2007, with five nearly identical spacecraft nestled inside a Delta II rocket. Simply orchestrating how to expel each of the five satellites without unbalancing the rocket was an engineering tour de force - but it was only the preamble. Over time, each spacecraft moved into formation to fly around Earth in a highly-elliptical orbit that would have them travelling through all parts of Earth's space weather environment, a giant magnetic bubble called the magnetosphere. With five different observatories, scientists could watch space weather unfold in a way never before possible.

In its sixth year in space, scientific papers using THEMIS data helped highlight a number of crucial details about what causes space weather events in this complex system.

"Scientists have been trying to understand what drives changes in the magnetosphere since the 1958 discovery by James Van Allen that Earth was surrounded by rings of radiation," says David Sibeck, project scientist for THEMIS at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "Over the last six years, in conjunction with other key missions such as Cluster and the recently launched Van Allen Probes to study the radiation belts, THEMIS has dramatically improved our understanding of the magnetosphere."

Since that 1958 discovery, observations of the radiation belts and near Earth space have shown that in response to different kinds of activity on the sun, energetic particles can appear almost instantaneously around Earth, while in other cases they can be wiped out completely. Electromagnetic waves course through the area too, kicking particles along, pushing them ever faster, or dumping them into the Earth's atmosphere. The bare bones of how particles and waves interact have been described, but with only one spacecraft traveling through a given area at a time, it's impossible to discern what causes the observed changes during any given event.

"Trying to understand this very complex system over the last 40 years has been quite difficult," says Vassilis Angelopoulos, the principal investigator for THEMIS at the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA). "But very recently we have learned how even small variations in the solar wind - which buffets Earth's space environment at a million miles an hour -- can sometimes cause extreme responses, causing more particles to arrive or to be lost."

Near Earth, THEMIS has now traveled through more than 50 solar storms that caused particles in the outer radiation belts to either increase or decrease in number. Historically, it has been difficult for scientists to find commonalities between such occurrences and discover what, if anything consistently caused an enhancement or a depletion. With so many events to study, however, and a more global view of the system from several spacecraft working together - including, in this case, ground based observations and NOAA's GOES (Geostationary Operational Environment Satellites) and POES (Polar Operational Environmental Satellites) data in addition to THEMIS data - a team of scientists led by Drew Turner at UCLA could better characterize what processes caused which results.

Turner's group recently presented evidence linking specific kinds of electromagnetic waves in space - waves that are differentiated based on such things as their frequencies, whether they interact with ions or electrons, and whether they move along or across the background magnetic fields - to different effects. Chorus waves, so called because when played through an amplifier they sound like a chorus of singing birds, consistently sped up particles, leading to an increase in particle density. On the other hand, two types of waves known as hiss and EMIC (Electromagnetic Ion Cyclotron) waves occurred in those storms that showed particle depletion. Turner also observed that when incoming activity from the sun severely pushed in the boundaries of the magnetosphere this, too, led to particle drop outs, or sudden losses throughout the system. Such information is helpful to those attempting to forecast changes in the radiation belts, which if they swell too much can encompass many of our spacecraft.

Another group has a paper in print in 2013 based on 2008 data from the five THEMIS spacecraft in conjunction with three of NOAA's GOES (Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites) spacecraft, and the ESA/NASA Cluster mission. Led by Michael Hartinger at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, this group compared observations at the bow shock where the supersonic solar wind brakes to flow around the magnetosphere to what happens inside the magnetosphere. They found that instabilities drive perturbations in the solar wind particles streaming towards the bow shock and that these perturbations can be correlated with another type of magnetized wave - ULF (ultra low frequency) waves -- inside the magnetosphere. ULF waves, in turn, are thought to be important for changes in the radiation belts.

"The interesting thing about this paper is that it shows how the magnetosphere actually gets quite a bit of energy from the solar wind, even by seemingly innocuous rotations in the magnetic field," says Angelopoulos. "People hadn't realized that you could get waves from these types of events, but there was a one-to-one correspondence. One THEMIS spacecraft saw an instability at the bow shock and another THEMIS spacecraft then saw the waves closer to Earth."

Since all the various waves in the magnetosphere are what can impart energy to the particles surrounding Earth, knowing just what causes each kind of wave is yet another important part of the space weather puzzle.

A third interesting science paper from THEMIS's sixth year focused on features originating even further upstream in the solar wind. Led by Galina Korotova at IZMIRAN in Troitsk, Russia, this work made use of THEMIS and GOES data to observe the magnetosphere boundary, the magnetopause. The researchers addressed how seemingly small perturbations in the solar wind can have large effects near Earth. Wave-particle interactions in the solar wind in the turbulent region upstream from the bow shock act as a gate valve, dramatically changing the bow shock orientation and strength directly in front of Earth, an area that depends critically on the magnetic field orientation. The extreme bow shock variations cause undulations throughout the magnetopause, which, launch pressure perturbations that may in turn energize particles in the Van Allen radiation belts.

All of this recent work helps illuminate the nitty gritty details of how seemingly small changes in a system can lead to large variations in the near-Earth space environment where so many important technologies - including science, weather, GPS and communications satellites all reside.

Much of this work was based on data from when all five spacecraft were orbiting Earth. Beginning in the fall of 2010, however, two of the THEMIS spacecraft were moved over the course of nine months to observe the environment around the moon. These two satellites were renamed ARTEMIS (Acceleration, Reconnection, Turbulence and Electrodynamics of the Moon's Interaction with the Sun). In their new position, the two ARTEMIS spacecraft spend 80% of their time directly observing the solar wind, offering a vantage point on this area outside our magnetosphere that is quite close to home.

The THEMIS spacecraft continue to work at their original levels of operation and all the instruments function highly effectively. With their current positioning and the ability to work in conjunction with other nearby spacecraft, scientists look forward to the stream of data yet to come.

"What we have with THEMIS and ARTEMIS and the Van Allen Probes, is a whole constellation we are developing in near-Earth space," says Turner. "It's crucial for developing our forecasting ability and getting a better sense of the system as a whole."

THEMIS is the fifth medium-class mission under NASA's Explorer Program, which was conceived to provide frequent flight opportunities for world-class scientific investigations from space within the Heliophysics and Astrophysics science areas. The Explorers Program Office at Goddard manages this NASA-funded mission. The University of California, Berkeley's Space Sciences Laboratory and Swales Aerospace in Beltsville, Md., built the THEMIS probes.

Karen C. Fox
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD.

Source: NASA News: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/themis/news/six-years.html


February 14, 2013:

THEMIS featured in AGU Geophysical Monograph:

A new AGU Monograph on auroral physics was recently published, prominently featuring THEMIS data. While in the past terrestrial and planetary auroras have been largely treated in separate books, Auroral Phenomenology and Magnetospheric Processes: Earth and Other Planets takes a holistic approach, treating the aurora as a fundamental process and discussing the phenomenology, physics, and relationship with the respective planetary magnetospheres in one volume. While there are some behaviors common in auroras of the different planets, there are also striking differences that test our basic understanding of auroral processes. The objective, upon which this monograph is focused, is to connect our knowledge of auroral morphology to the physical processes in the magnetosphere that power and structure discrete and diffuse auroras. The volume synthesizes five major areas: auroral phenomenology, aurora and ionospheric electrodynamics, discrete auroral acceleration, aurora and magnetospheric dynamics, and comparative planetary aurora. Covering the recent advances in observations, simulation, and theory, this book will serve a broad community of scientists, including graduate students, studying auroras at Mars, Earth, Saturn, and Jupiter.

Many spacecraft missions have probed the outer magnetosphere of Earth in conjunction with ground-based and space-borne imagers, and these have contributed enormously to our understanding of the coupled magnetotail-ionosphere system. It must also be said that the THEMIS project has given a new boost to the ongoing auroral investigations, and thus it is features prominently in this volume.

Citation: Keiling, A., E. Donovan, F. Bagenal, and T. Karlsson (Eds.) (2012), Auroral Phenomenology and Magnetospheric Processes: Earth and Other Planets, Geophys. Monogr. Ser., vol. 197, 443 pp., AGU, Washington, D. C., doi:10.1029/GM197.


October 6, 2012:

THEMIS Research Highlight:

Congratulations to our colleague Victor Sergeev of St. Petersburg University! The editors of the Journal of Geophysical Research - Space Physics have selected his recent paper based on THEMIS data, entitled "Energetic particle injections to geostationary orbit: Relationship to flow bursts and magnetospheric state," as a JGR Editor's Highlight. It will also be featured as a "Research Spotlight" in Eos, AGU's weekly newspaper, to be published soon.

Most high-energy particle injections do not reach geostationary orbit

The injection of high-energy particles into the inner magnetotail is often considered a reliable sign of a magnetic substorm. These injections are often thought to be caused by flow bursts, short-lived periods of narrow fast flow streams in the magnetotail. Analyzing records of flow bursts at the entry to the night-side inner magnetosphere, from 8 to 13 Earth radii, as seen by Geotail from 1995 to 2005, and by the Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions During Substorms (THEMIS) satellite from 2008 to 2009, Sergeev et al. (2012) found that most flow bursts do not cause the injection of high-energy particles to geostationary altitudes, and thus such injections are a poor measure of substorm activity. The authors identified 61 flow bursts using the Geotail records, and 44 using THEMIS observations. To determine whether an injection occurred with each of the flow bursts, they compared the Geotail records with publicly accessible pre-2008 particle injection data from Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) satellites, and turned to LANL scientists who had access to classified LANL satellite observations to confirm whether or not an injection occurred with each of the flow bursts in the THEMIS observations. The authors found that only 23 of the 61 Geotail bursts and 16 of the 44 THEMIS bursts were associated with the injection of high-energy particles into geostationary Earth orbit. The authors found that for a particle injection to make it to geostationary altitudes, the entropy parameter in the flow burst plasma needed to be comparable to the entropy at geostationary Earth orbit. The authors found that a strong solar wind driving, and high plasma pressure, at geostationary orbit could help drive up geostationary entropy and allow the injection of accelerated flow burst plasma.



X-Y locations of the spacecraft observing the flow bursts for two data sets. Thick curve shows the GEO distance (6.6 Re). (a) Geotail locations in the events accompanied by GEO injections (red points) and in those without GEO injections (blue points). (b) Same as Figure 2a but for THEMIS spacecraft; events with simultaneous observations at two or three spacecraft are connected by line segments.

Citation: Sergeev, V. A., I. A. Chernyaev, S. V. Dubyagin, Y. Miyashita, V. Angelopoulos, P. D. Boakes, R. Nakamura, and M. G. Henderson (2012), Energetic particle injections to geostationary orbit: Relationship to flow bursts and magnetospheric state, J. Geophys. Res., 117, A10207, doi:10.1029/2012JA017773.


September 19, 2012:

UCLA THEMIS Research Highlight:

The editors of the journal Geophysical Research Letters have selected Lunjin Chen's recent paper, entitled "Modulation of plasmaspheric hiss intensity by thermal plasma density structure," as both a GRL Editor's Highlight and a feature in the "Research Spotlight" section on the back page of Eos, AGU's weekly newspaper.

Plasmaspheric hiss amplification mechanisms identified (by Colin Schultz, from Eos)

Over the past 3 decades the hypothesis that chorus waves- a form of highintensity plasma wave often found in the outer magnetosphere- evolve into plasmaspheric hiss in the plasmasphere has grown in prominence. Plasmaspheric hiss is a form of low-frequency radio wave that is often observed in the regions within the plasmasphere that have high plasma densities. Plasmaspheric hiss is important in that the hiss waves interact with highenergy electrons in Earth's geomagnetic field, carving out a swath between the inner and outer Van Allen radiation belts to form the "slot region," a relative safe zone with minimized radiation hazard. Though modeled simulations of plasmaspheric hiss formation from chorus waves have been able to reproduce the major properties of observed hiss, they often underestimate hiss intensity by 10-20 decibels. Drawing on observations from the planet's dayside made using NASA's Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms (THEMIS) satellite, Chen et al. examine two mechanisms that could make up for this shortfall.


A representative chorus ray that is guided by a density crest. The magenta line represents the ray path, along which wave normal directions are denoted by the short segments color-coded by the propagation time (up to 17 seconds). The model plasma density is shown in the background in gray scale.

Citation: Chen, L., R. M. Thorne, W. Li, J. Bortnik, D. Turner, and V. Angelopoulos (2012), Modulation of plasmaspheric hiss intensity by thermal plasma density structure, Geophys. Res. Lett., 39, L14103, doi:10.1029/2012GL052308.


June 26, 2012:

Jenni Kissinger's paper highlighted by JGR and Eos:

The editors of the Journal of Geophysical Research - Space Physics have selected Jenni Kissinger's recent paper, entitled "Diversion of plasma due to high pressure in the inner magnetosphere during steady magnetospheric convection," as both a JGR Editor's Highlight and a feature in the "Research Spotlight" section on the back page of Eos, AGU's weekly newspaper.

Steady convection keeps Earth's magnetic field in balance (by Colin Schultz, from Eos)

The onslaught of the solar wind on the Sun-facing side of Earth's magnetic field causes terrestrial magnetic field lines to break through magnetic reconnection. The persistent pressure of the solar wind pulls the field lines and the associated plasma around to the magnetotail on Earth's nightside, where magnetic reconnection occurs once again to form the plasma sheet region. This uneven distribution creates a pressure gradient that drives nightside plasma back toward the planet. The Earthward transport of this nightside magnetospheric plasma is known to occur in one of two ways: as a magnetic substorm or as steady magnetospheric convection (SMC). Substorms include acute inflows that cause plasma to pile up in the inner magnetosphere and have been tied to the onset of aurorae. SMC, on the other hand, has been proposed as a mechanism for rebalancing the plasma gradient established between the day and night sides of Earth's magnetic field. Kissinger et al. compiled 14 years of magnetic field and plasma observations to study how plasma flows and magnetospheric conditions differ between SMC events and substorms.


Contour maps of average Earthward magnetic flux transport in the X-Y GSM plane by type of activity: (top) quiet, pre-SMC, and SMC and (bottom) substorm growth, expansion, and recovery. All plots are to the same color scale.

Citation: Kissinger, J., R. L. McPherron, T.-S. Hsu, and V. Angelopoulos (2012), Diversion of plasma due to high pressure in the inner magnetosphere during steady magnetospheric convection, J. Geophys. Res., 117, A05206, doi:10.1029/2012JA017579.


June 7, 2012:

Lunjin Chen receives AGU Fred L. Scarf award for THEMIS work:

Congratulations to Lunjin Chen for winning the Fred L. Scarf award for the best 2011 PhD thesis in AGU's Space Physics and Aeronomy section, recognizing outstanding dissertation research that contributes directly to solar-planetary science. His thesis, entitled "Propagation and Excitation of Electromagnetic Waves in the Earth's Inner Magnetosphere," benefited significantly from the availability of THEMIS data. He will be receiving his award at the Fall AGU meeting.

Citation: Chen, Lunjin, Propagation and Excitation of Electromagnetic Waves in the Earth's Inner Magnetosphere, University of California, Los Angeles, 2011 , 247 pages; AAT 3483236.


May 1, 2012:

THEMIS/ARTEMIS featured on cover of Geophysical Research Letters (continued from home page):

A THEMIS/ARTEMIS mission spacecraft (P1) and Jimmy Raeder's simulation rendition of a THEMIS major conjunction are prominently featured on the cover of today's (March 16, 2012, Vol. 39, No. 5) issue of Geophysical Research Letters. This happened thanks to the review paper on substorm research by Victor Sergeev and colleagues which is published in this same issue.

Congratulations to Victor on his paper and to the THEMIS/ARTEMIS communities for continuing the great pace of discoveries on substorms and so many other topics spanning the entire magnetosphere (and which are increasingly including the storms of the current solar cycle!).

Link to journal: http://www.agu.org/journals/gl/
Cover image: JPG - PDF

Citation: Sergeev, V. A., V. Angelopoulos, and R. Nakamura (2012), Recent advances in understanding substorm dynamics, Geophys. Res. Lett., 39, L05101, doi:10.1029/2012GL050859.


Magnetosphere simulation with THEMIS spacecraft conjuction in the equatorial plane.
Credit: J. Raeder (UNH), NASA/Goddard Scientific Visualization Studio.

January 29, 2012:

THEMIS research published in Nature Physics Journal:

Congratulations to Drew Turner for his Nature Physics publication on: "Explaining sudden losses of outer radiation belt electrons during geomagnetic storms" published on-line on January 29 and making the news around the world!

Using combined data from THEMIS, GOES, and NOAA-POES satellites, Dr. Turner's research explains how electron losses through the magnetopause resolve a long standing mystery of electron drop-outs during storm main phase.

Read the article here: http://www.nature.com/nphys/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nphys2185.html
NASA press release: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/themis/news/electron-escape.html

Source: Turner, D. L., Y. Shprits, M. Hartinger, V. Angelopoulos (2012), Explaining sudden losses of outer radiation belt electrons during geomagnetic storms, Nature Phys., doi:10.1038/nphys2185.


From October to December 2003, the radiation belts swelled and shrank in response to geomagnetic storms as particles entered and escaped the belts. Credit: NASA/Goddard Scientific Visualization Studio

January 17, 2012:

THEMIS analyses highlighted in AGU's Eos magazine:

The editors of the Journal of Geophysical Research - Space Physics have selected Dr. Larry Lyons' recent paper, entitled "Possible connection of polar cap flows to pre- and post-substorm onset PBIs and streamers" as an AGU "Research Spotlight."

The general summary (below) of the paper will be published in JGR online and in the "Research Spotlight" section on the back page of Eos, AGU's weekly newspaper. These summaries are designed to highlight new, noteworthy, and interesting results published in AGU's journals. Congratulations to Dr. Lyons and his team on their accomplishment!

Flows in polar cap ionosphere could trigger auroral substorms

Auroral substorms, in which aurora brighten and increase in speed, occur often and seem to be triggered by electric currents in the ionosphere at high latitude. However, scientists don't know the details of how auroral substorms begin and what drives their expansion and controls their duration.

Plasma flows within the ionosphere's polar cap region hadn't generally been considered to be a driver of auroral substorms, but some recent studies have suggested that mesoscale plasma flows from the polar cap could cross the polar cap boundary and contribute to triggering of flows that may bring new plasma earthward and lead to onset of substorms.

Lyons et al. used the Resolute Bay incoherent scatter radar and the Rankin Inlet PolarDARN radar, combined with all sky images from the THEMIS satellites, to study plasma flows in the polar cap. They observed flows moving from within the polar cap toward the polar cap boundary. The authors believe that their observations provide evidence that such flow structures could be important for triggering other flows that lead to onset of substorms. In addition, they suggest that flows in the polar cap after substorm onset could be important in controlling poleward expansion and continuation of auroral activity after a substorm has begun. The study could lead to better understanding of how auroral substorms begin.

Source: Lyons, L. R., Y. Nishimura, H.-J. Kim, E. Donovan, V. Angelopoulos, G. Sofko, M. Nicolls, C. Heinselman, J. M. Ruohoniemi, and N. Nishitani (2011), Possible connection of polar cap flows to pre- and post-substorm onset PBIs and streamers, J. Geophys. Res., 116, A12225, doi:10.1029/2011JA016850.


Figure 1. Schematic illustration of motion of pre-onset auroral forms and their relation to nightside ionospheric convection and flow channels based on Nishimura et al. [2010b]. The pink star, NS oriented pink line, and azimuthally extended wavy lines indicate a poleward boundary intensification (PBI), an auroral steamer, and an onset arc, respectively. Blue arrows illustrate the plasma flow pattern inferred by Nishimura et al. and from the polar cap flow observations considered here. Numbers 1-4 show the time sequence of pre-onset phenomena discussed in this paper. Yellow and mottled shading, respectively, correspond to the regions of proton and electron precipitation, SAPS refers to the region of sub-auroral polarization streams that lies equatorward of the inner edge of plasma sheet electron precipitation, and black curves represent the large-scale background convection flow pattern.

September 23, 2011:

Substorm Perspectives with Modern Magnetospheric and Ground Observatories (Continued from home page):

The much anticipated proceedings book/CD from the 10th International Conference on Substorms (ICS10) where THEMIS was prominently featured, is now available. Copies will be mailed out to attendees shortly. A few extra copies for non-attendees are also available on a first come first serve basis by request to emasongsong@igpp.ucla.edu.


Click here to view articles.

July 18, 2011:

ARTEMIS P2 finally arrives at its new home (Continued from home page):

On July 17th, 2011 the second probe P2 of the ARTEMIS mission successfully entered orbit around the moon after a circuitous 2-year journey from Earth orbit. Shortly after the two probes completed their original mission studying Earth's magnetic field in 2009 (THEMIS), they were propelled using carefully designed gravity-assist maneuvers to farther and farther orbits. Due to Earth's impending unacceptably long shadows, the spacecraft took refuge in the Lagrangian points on either side of the moon. ARTEMIS P1 and P2 were the first spacecraft ever to use those complex orbits operationally.

After using the Lagrange orbits as observational outposts for 9 months, the two spacecraft were subsequently staged to enter into stable lunar orbits. The P1 probe entered lunar orbit on June 27th, 2011, and now with its twin P2 orbiting in the opposite direction around the moon, the pair's sensitive instruments will yield the first 3D measurements of the moon's magnetic field to determine its regional influence on solar wind particles.

Read more about the ARTEMIS mission here: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/artemis/


ARTEMIS-P2 insertion into lunar orbit on Sunday July 17, 2011. The orbit is shown in a fixed Earth-Moon frame (horizontal axis, Earth to the left), viewed from above the ecliptic. Tickmarks are one-day intervals. P2 is leaving its prior trajectory, hovering in the Lagrange point between Earth and Moon (centered at L1 in the figure) to now enter a stable lunar orbit, its final destination. The P2 thrusters will be fired during three concecutive intervals lasting about 3 hrs at the time of the lunar orbit insertion (LOI), indicated by the red trace.

Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center.

June 27, 2011:

ARTEMIS/P1 now successfully inserted into Lunar Orbit. (Continued from home page):

This morning ARTEMIS P1 (a.k.a. THEMIS B) was successfully inserted into a lunar orbit. The maneuver sequence stored onboard the spacecraft executed nominally near periselene on 2011/178 from 14:04 to 16:31 UTC, slowing the spacecraft by 50.3 m/s and allowing gravity capture into an initial orbit with estimated periselene and aposelene radii of approximately 3,543 and 27,000 km, respectively.

This was a great team effort so far, and our special thanks go out to the JPL and GSFC navigation and flight dynamics teams, as well as to all who helped us with networks support, in particular the DSN team. We could not have accomplished this without you!

Manfred Bester
Mission Operations Manager
Space Sciences Laboratory, UC Berkeley

See NASA Press release here: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/artemis/news/lunar-orbit.html


View from above the ARTEMIS P1 orbit as it transitions from the kidney-shaped Lissajous orbit to orbiting around the moon.
Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center.

March 11, 2011:

THEMIS at AGU Chapman Conference (Continued from home page):

THEMIS data were prominently presented during the recent AGU Chapman conference on the Relationship between Auroral Phenomenology and Magnetospheric Processes, held in Fairbanks, Alaska, from February 27th through March 4th, 2011. The conference provided a forum to present the latest results from analyses of experimental data (including space-borne, ground-based and co-ordinated data), simulation, and theory, addressing various aspects of the aurora. Presenters aimed to connect our knowledge of auroral morphology and mechanisms to candidate physical processes in the magnetosphere capable of powering and structuring the aurora on Earth and other planets. More details at: http://www.agu.org/meetings/chapman/2011/bcall/


This photo of the aurora was taken at the Poker Flat Research Range by James Spann during the conference week, featured on Spaceweather.com.

"This is the first time I have seen the aurora borealis in person," says Spann who lives in Alabama. "It was fantastic--the greatest light show on Earth. It was cold (<20 F) outside but worth every minute of exposure and lost sleep. I am afraid now that I have been ruined for life since my first personal viewing of the aurora was so amazing."

As a researcher he also appreciated the greater meaning of the display: "This is the most obvious and accessible evidence of the connectivity that Earth has with our star the sun. Witnessing the connectivity first-hand was particularly special to me."


On-site organizing team (from left): Andreas Keiling, Fran Bagenal, Dave Knudsen, Dirk Lummerzheim, Masafumi Hirahara, Eric Donovan.


Keynote speaker: Syun Akasofu.


Attendee, Nataly Ozak, received a certificate during the banquet for seeing the aurora for the first time. She was one of more than 20 attendees, young and old, who had not seen the aurora (without an instrument) before coming to this Chapman conference. In the end, everybody who attended saw the aurora!

October 22, 2010:

ARTEMIS spacecraft commence operations (Continued from home page):

highlights NASA's efficient use of the nation's space assets” said Dick Fisher, director of Helioiphysics Division in NASA's Science Mission Directorate.

See NASA press release 10-282: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/artemis/


The two Artemis spacecraft
commence science operations
in the lunar environment.
Credit: NASA-GSFC

August 25, 2010:

Artemis Spacecraft First to Enter New Type of Orbit:

Congrats to the ARTEMIS mission operations and mission design team for a successful capture of P1 into the Lunar Lagrange point L2! This is a technical milestone, as this orbit has never been entered into by other spacecraft, and paves the way for planning of future missions that can use the orbit as a staging ground for lunar insertions, or for continuous data relay from the far side. The L2 entry of P1 will be followed by an L1 entry of P2 in October 2010, commencing the beginning of ARTEMIS science operations with 2 spacecraft.

See NASA press release at:
http://www.nasa.gov/topics/solarsystem/sunearthsystem/main/News082510-artemis.html


Illustration of ARTEMIS-P1 librations orbits
Credit: NASA-GSFC

May 6, 2010:

Article in Der Spiegel on Recent THEMIS Findings:

Congratulations to Panov, Nakamura, Baumjohann and Glassmeier for a successful EGU press release, which took place on Monday, May 1st at EGU, on the topic of the interaction of flow bursts with inner magnetosphere pressure gradients. The interaction was found to cause a plasma recoil and ground pulsations. Their press conference resulted in several media publications including this one below (translated as "plasma bombs triggerspacequakes"), and brought our field to the front pages in Europe,

Article in Der Spiegel on the recent THEMIS findings (in German, click here for full article)

triggering space physics images in popular media, such as the aurora borealis over Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull (also see image below).

Aurora erupting over the active
Iceland volcano Eyjafjallajokull
in May 2010

February 26, 2010:

ARTEMIS P2 Completes Orbit Raise Maneuver Sequence:

As of February 26, 2010 the last orbit raise maneuver (ORM) of a long sequence was successfully executed on ARTEMIS P2 (THEMIS C), setting up this probe for a lunar flyby (on March 28), to initiate its trans-lunar trajectory (see image, left side). ARTEMIS P1 (THEMIS B) is already in its trans-lunar orbit, beyond 1,000,000 km from Earth (see image, upper right corner). At such large distances significant data recovery is impractical, so any data recovered on a best effort basis is primarily for the sake of checking health and status. This completes the period of ORMs successfully. Significant data recovery will commence again when the probes arrive at lunar distances starting in the fall, followed by capture into the Lissajous orbits. Hats off to the operations and mission design personnel for bringing the probes safely to this point!

ARTEMIS P2 completes orbit
raise maneuver sequence, shown
here en-route to trans-lunar
trajectory.

January 5, 2010:

THEMIS Paper by Zoltan Voros Makes Physics of Plasmas Cover:

Congratulations to Zoltan Voros for his THEMIS paper, titled "Evolution of kinklike fluctuations associated with ion pickup within reconnection outflows in the Earth's magnetotail" in Physics of Plasmas (http://pop.aip.org/pop/) which made the cover page of that journal in December 2009!

December 17, 2009:

Colliding Auroras Produce an Explosion of Light, Report THEMIS Scientists:

This announcement by NASA/HQ and GSFC points to the work by Toshi Nishimura and Larry Lyons, which was reported today at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco. According to THEMIS project scientist Dave Sibeck of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, "By putting together data from ground-based cameras, ground-based radar, and the THEMIS spacecraft, we now have a nearly complete picture of what causes explosive auroral substorms." Lyons and Nishimura have identified a common sequence of events [during substorms]. It begins with a broad curtain of slow-moving auroras and a smaller knot of fast-moving auroras, initially far apart. The slow curtain quietly hangs in place, almost immobile, when the speedy knot rushes in from the north. The auroras collide and an eruption of light ensues. See full story at: www.nasa.gov/themis.
A fast-moving knot of auroras is poised to collide with a slower moving curtain hanging over the Arctic. THEMIS all-sky imagers photographed the collision on Feb 29, 2008.

November 19, 2009:

THEMIS Receives Accolades from its End of Prime Mission (EOPM) Review:

THEMIS completed its End Of Prime Mission (EOPM) review with high accolades from NASA/HQ and GSFC. The objective of the review was to demonstrate achievement of the prime mission science objectives, adherence to the mission Level-1 requirements, and report on overall mission technical performance. It gave us the opportunity to showcase the excellent science accomplishments and superb performance of the instruments and mission. HQ exclaimed how impressed they were with both the THEMIS science results and the THEMIS team's support of the community with data and with analysis tools. Congratulations to the team for such an exemplary performance.
THEMIS recently received accolades
in its EOPM review.

September 22, 2009:

HQ congratulates THEMIS Team on Successful Completion of Prime Mission; Wishes "Smooth Sailing" in Extended Phase:

In the aftermath of THEMIS's Science Working Team meeting on September 14-16 in Annapolis, MD (momento below), Jeff Heyes, Program Executive on our Mission Operations and Data Analysis, said: "Please convey to the team the NASA Heliophysics Division's sincere congratulations on the work that has been done on the THEMIS mission, getting it through the Prime phase of the mission, and on meeting the Full mission success criteria. We realize that it takes a great deal of dedication by all involved to make such an accomplishment. We look forward to continued success of the mission as it enters its extended phase."
Memento from THEMIS's Science Working Team meeting in Annapolis, MD on September 14-16, 2009.

July 20, 2009:

A Small Step for Artemis, a Giant Leap for NASA Heliophysics:

40 years after Apollo 11's lunar landing, NASA's first dual identical-satellite mission to study the Moon and its environment commences operations. Artemis consists of the pair of outer THEMIS/MIDEX probes which will be repositioned starting today and over the course of the next year and a half and will utilize the lunar gravity to gradually purturb their orbits and provide a low-thrust lunar orbit capture. Artemis stands for "Acceleration Reconnection and Turbulence and Electrodynamics of the Moon's Interaction with the Sun." The mission was approved in May 2008 as part of the extended operations plan of THEMIS by NASA's 2008 Heliophysics Senior Review panel [see http://nasascience.nasa.gov/about-us/science-strategy/senior-reviews/Heliophysics_Senior_Review_2008_Report_Final.pdf]. Artemis (which also denotes the goddess of the moon and hunting in ancient mythology) will utilize simultaneous measurements of particles and electric and magnetic fields from two locations to provide the first three-dimensional information on how energetic particle acceleration takes place near the moon's orbit, in the distant magnetosphere and in the solar wind. It will also perform unprecedented observations of the refilling of the space environment behind the dark side of the moon, the greatest known vacuum in the solar system, by the solar wind.
Pictorial representation of ARTEMIS probes around the moon, as they will orbit in early 2011. ARTEMIS P1 and P2 are the outermost two THEMIS probes, which commenced their low-thrust lunar orbit insertion maneuvers on July 20, 2009, slated to arrive at the moon in October 2010.

June 5, 2009:

THEMIS-enabled Research on Chorus Waves Makes GRL Front Cover:

Congratulations to Wen Li for her GRL cover paper, titled: "Global distribution of whistler-mode chorus waves observed on the THEMIS spacecraft." Chorus waves are important for both electron acceleration and also electron scattering into the loss cone - therefore we are very interested in both understanding their generation, propagation and distribution, and incorporating their characteristics in radiation belt models for operational purposes. In the paper, Li et al show that chorus waves can persist at large distances (> 7 Re) in the dayside magnetosphere even during moderate or low geomagnetic activity - an observation that is enabled by THEMIS's unique orbit characteristics (12Re apogee) and comprehensive instrumentation. The observation leads to important clues regarding chorus generation by unstable drifting electron distributions. Li et al. also extend previous work regarding the occurence and amplitude of these waves at all local times (see http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2009/2009GL037595.shtml ).
GRL front page cover featuring Li et al paper on THEMIS. Top: schematic of THEMIS orbits traversing the inner magnetosphere. Bottom: statistical distribution of chorus waves at low (left) and intermediate (right) latitudes.

May 25, 2009:

THEMIS Team Members Find Epicenter of Substorm Signatures:

THEMIS team members Jonathan Rae and Ian Mann (University of Alberta) announced today the breaking of new ground in pinpointing the epicenter of the arrival of substorm magnetic signatures from space to the ionosphere, using data from THEMIS's Ground-Based Observatories. Using methods akin to tracking seismological signal time delays, the magnetic signatures of a substorm in the ionosphere can, for the first time, be used to probe the eye of the space storm and represent a breakthrough in our ability to correlate ionospheric and magnetospheric signatures of substorm onset. As such they are expected to lead to significant advances in our ability to determine substorm onset time and location and advance our understanding of the substorm trigger and evolution under a variety of solar wind conditions. The findings were presented today at the 2009 AGU Spring meeting, and at a joint AGU/University of Alberta/CSA/NASA press conference (see http://www.agu.org/sci_soc/prrl/2009-15.html)

Image credit: Andy Kale, University of Alberta

May 8, 2009:

THEMIS Observes First Direct Link Between Chorus and Hiss Waves:

Observations obtained by THEMIS have provided the stongest evidence to date for the source of plasmaspheric hiss. In a paper by Bortnik et al., in today's issue of Science magazine, the first direct link between chorus and hiss waves has been demonstrated observationally. Hiss waves are important for space weather as they scatter radiation belt electrons into the loss cone. The waves throttle "killer electron" radiation amplitudes and are important to understand in order to better predict the consequences of large storms on spacecraft and humans in space. For details see: Science 8 May 2009, Vol. 324, no. 5928, pp. 775-778.

Simultaneous measurements at THEMIS D and E demonstrate that hiss waves in the plasmasphere orginate as chorus waves in a source region outside the plasmasphere. The chorus waves enter the plasmasphere directly (solid red lines), and evolve into hiss (dashed copper lines) by bouncing back and forth between the northern and southern magnetic poles. View larger figure.
Image credit: NASA/SVS and J. Bortnik

April 23, 2009:

THEMIS Observations Reveal Presence of Vortical Structures:

Observations by THEMIS in the nightside magnetosphere revealed the presense of vortical structures responsible for hundreds of thousands of Amps of electrical current flowing into Earth's ionosphere and producing spectacular auroral swirls. The results were reported by Andreas Keiling, Karl Heinz Glassmeier and Olaf Amm at today's Spring EGU meeting, in Vienna, Austria.


View larger figure.
Image credit: A. Keiling et al., THEMIS/NASA

April 17, 2009:

THEMIS Mission in Dusk Sector:

The mission is now in the Dusk sector collecting data from a unique vantage point: Probes are separated by 1-3 Re and as of April 24th they will collect time-based survey data and time-based particle bursts and wave bursts, so that waves can be correlated at high resolution between widely separated regions of space. The outer probes are already collecting magnetopause and shock crossings bursting on density triggers.

March 20, 2009:

THEMIS Accomplishes Baseline Objectives, Survives Deep Shadow:

THEMIS has now fully accomplished its baseline objectives by completing the full second year's worth of magnetotail observations. Despite the extended Solar Minimum, solar wind energy coupling was strong and frequent enough to enable observations of at least two dozen substorms. THEMIS P1 and P2's tail orbits were changed in order to increase current sheet encounters, with excellent results in the data. In addition, there have been 3sec resolution full angular distributions of electrons 12hrs per orbit on P1 and P2 in the tail season for ~3weeks, while P3,4,5 stayed in that mode since mid-February. The resulting data recovery from all probes is about twice what we initially promised. The scientific potential of the dataset is astounding.

Furthermore, P1 has gone through the longest shadow any of the probes will ever encounter. It was a 4-hour shadow (above the 3-hr design limit) that resulted in no loss of data (other than the precautionary turn-off of the High Voltage power supply for the ESA instrument). All probes are undergoing smaller eclipses (you can spot them in the overview plots from the rotation of the magnetic field due to spacecraft moment of inertia changes and lack of sun pulse information).

February 27, 2009:

Road Cleared for ARTEMIS Mission Implementation:

On Feb 24, 2009 ARTEMIS passed its mini-Confirmation review at GSFC. Therefore, the road has been cleared for the upcoming mission implementation. There will be a delta (pico) review in early May to ensure progress with contingency planning is adequate, but we don't anticipate any problems. Congratulations to the implementation teams at UCB, JPL and GSFC for their outstanding progress to-date!

The essence of the comments of the review board was that the ARTEMIS team has done an outstanding job, especially considering the little (8 months) time that has passed since the Senior Review go-ahead. Of course, it was recognized that there is still a lot of work ahead, but the team yesterday presented a reasonable, viable plan, which conveys confidence they can deliver. Even though this is a challenging project, given the resources and time available, this condition was deemed acceptable considering that the THEMIS probes are already operating well and this is an extended-phase mission. The reviewers have come up with less than a handful of requests for action, which I am certain will strengthen the project, as it moves towards the Orbit Raise Maneuvers in the upcoming summer. Tentatively the ORMs start July 9th.

THEMIS P1 (TH-B) in red and P2 (TH-C) orbit between this summer's orbit raise maneuvers and October 2010 when they will capture the Lagrange points between Earth and Moon. After six months in those orbits, P1 and P2 will be inserted into Lunar orbits where they will make measurements of the Lunar warke, the magnetotail, and the solar wind through September 2012. View larger figure.

February 11, 2009:

THEMIS-B and -C Observed by Asteroid Hunters:

Proof that THEMIS has actually launched:

Looking for asteroids that may be on collision course with Earth, Peter Birthwhistle in the UK and Bill J. Gray in the US have spotted THEMIS B (pictures to the right) and THEMIS C. Asteroid hunters are used to detecting satellites amongst their real quarry, but most satellites move so fast that astronomers can immediately discount them as "obvious" man-made objects. At apogee, though, THEMIS-B and -C appear to be moving slowly enough so that they can look like a real asteroid (until you get enough data to make it clear that they are close in and orbiting Earth). Birthwhistle and Gray took the most recent THEMIS-B images from the Mount Lemmon Survey telescope in Arizona. Fitting those data, they derived the THEMIS-B orbital elements in the time interval between THEMIS maneuvers. The left image shows a superposition of sky pictures with THEMIS-B in the center using the derived THEMIS-B elements, for February 6, 2009. The dot in the middle is THEMIS-B! The same process after the THEMIS-B T2-28d "tweak" maneuver resulted in the right image on February 19 (again THEMIS-B is the dot in the center). Stars move in relation to THEMIS and appear as dot-streaks. The images were taken at the Great Shefford Observatory in the UK. These results are welcome for THEMIS scientists, who can now rest assured that recent reports on tail reconnection have used data collected by actual probes in space.

THEMIS-B THEMIS-B
For more information: http://www.projectpluto.com Images of THEMIS-B taken by Peter Birthwhistle and Bill Gray at the Great Shefford Observatory in the UK. The tiny white dots in the middle of the images represent THEMIS-B. The white dot-streaks are stars moving in relation to THEMIS.

December, 2008:

THEMIS Scientists Discover Breach in Earth's Magnetosphere:

December 16, 2008
Earth's magnetic field deflects highly charged particles emitted by the sun, known as solar wind, which speed towards Earth at a million miles per hour. However, these particles are not fully deflected by the magnetosphere, but instead penetrate through two areas. The extent to which these breaches allow solar wind particles to enter through the magnetopshere is dependent on the orientation of the sun's magnetic field. Previously, it was thought that when the sun's magnetic field aligned with that of Earth, the transfer of solar wind particles into Earth's magnetosphere was minimal. However, THEMIS team scientists recently discovered that contrary to longstanding views on how and when solar plasma enters the Earth's magnetosphere, 20 times more solar wind plasma penetrates Earth's magnetosphere when the sun's magnetic field is aligned with that of the Earth.

  • View the NASA press release.

  • Read more in this THEMIS nugget.

  • THEMIS Enters Second Tail Season:

    As of December 15, 2008, THEMIS has entered its second tail season: the probes have started to line up in the tail and burst on Bz (Particle Bursts) and Filterbank data (Wave Bursts). P2, P3, P4 and P5 have already captured the first substorm of the new season, on December 15, 09:15UT (precursor) and 09:40UT (onset), with the probes were in minor conjunction (P1 in the sheath). Four-day conjunctions occured on December 17th and will occur every 4 days thereafter through mid-March, between 00:30-12:30 UT. Note that P5 is below P3 and P4.

    October, 2008:

    Successful Completion of Plane-Change Maneuver on THEMIS-B (P1):

    On Friday, October 16th, a large orbit plane-change maneuver on THEMIS-B (P1) was completed successfully. The plane-change maneuver was followed by an attitude adjustment, bringing P1 to its nominal science attitude. The plane-change maneuver consumed almost as much fuel as the combined fuel of all previous maneuvers on P1; it was a nearly continuous 100-minute burn of both the axial thrusters. The resultant >20deg plane change reversed the cumulative effect of lunar perturbations over the last year and put P1 in an excellent position to perform high-quality night-time near-neutral sheet observations in the second tail season. The orbit was optimized to achieve prolonged neutral sheet residence within 1Re. You can find predicted orbits (based on plans from a month ago) at http://sscweb.gfsc.nasa.gov/tipsod. New predicted elements will appear there shortly.

    A similar, though smaller maneuver on TH-C (P2) will take place during the early morning hours of Wednesday, October 22nd. We look forward to an exciting second tail season ahead!

    Our thanks go to Manfred Bester and to the entire mission operations team at UCB for an impeccable execution of a demanding maneuver plan, involving working through some tough hours over the last few days; as well as to the orbit designer Sabine Frey for her careful orbit analysis and optimization.

    September, 2008:

    THEMIS Completes Data Collection Requirements for Dayside Observations:

    As of Wednesday, August 28th, THEMIS has completed its data collection requirements for dayside observations. The five THEMIS probes are now in the dawn portion of the dayside phase. They have collected more than 200 hrs of 4 probe dayside conjunctions, and more than 100 hours of 5-probe alignments. Many of those conjunctions are from the unique vantage point of simultaneous solar wind, foreshocked solar wind, and magnetopause encounters. Owing to the slow dynamic pressure of the solar wind in the last 2 months, most of the inner probe magnetopause encounters are within 3 weeks of August 4th, near the subsolar point. We expect more flank magnetopause encounters in the 2nd dayside season next summer.

    July, 2008:

    THEMIS Observations Show that Magnetic Reconnection Triggered Substorm Onset:

    THEMIS captured several substorms from a unique vantage point, showing that magnetic reconnection triggered substorm onset. Results appeared in Highlights of Science Express on July 24, 2008 and on the cover of the August 15, 2008 issue of the magazine.

    Read the article>>

    May, 2008:

    ARTEMIS Mission Approved by NASA:

    NASA has extended the THEMIS mission to the year 2012. In addition, ARTEMIS, a new mission that will take the two outer THEMIS probes into lunar orbits and perform solar wind, magnetotail, and lunar science, has been provisionally approved by NASA, pending a technical review before February 2009. Excerpt from the senior review report: "The senior review panel congratulates the THEMIS science team on their innovative plan to drastically reposition the five THEMIS probes at the conclusion of the prime THEMIS mission. The extended mission, which will consist of THEMIS-Low and the lunar-orbitting ARTEMIS, is highly compelling, both for the individual scientific goals and what will undoubtedly be their excellent contributions to the Helio-Physics Great Observatory." ARTEMIS will perform measurements in the lunar environment from October 2010 until September 2012.

    Please find the extended THEMIS proposal here.
    Please find the Senior Review report here.

    THEMIS Receives NASA Group Achievement Award:

    On Thursday, May 8th, NASA Administrator Michael Griffin bestowed upon the THEMIS team a Group Achievement Award for the successful delivery, launch, and operations of the THEMIS probes. NASA chief engineer Chris Scolese praised the THEMIS team for its tenacity and ingenuity. The award comes at an important juncture between achieving minimum mission science and ramping up science productivity. In addition, on May 13th, THEMIS received a Goddard Space Flight Center Group Achievement Award.

    April, 2008:

    THEMIS Completes 1st Tail Season:

    THEMIS accomplished ~200 hours of four-probe conjunction and caught in excess of five dozen substorms, a dozen of which were from a pristine vantage point within the meridian. Many of those are being presented at the 9th International Conference on Substorms (ICS-9) in Graz, Austria, from May 5-9, and will form the basis of further studies and presentations during the summer.

    February, 2008:

    Mission Milestone:

    As of the end of February, THEMIS has observed 154 hours of four- probe conjunctions (the requirement was 94 hours), during which it observed 57 substorms. Of these 57 substorms, about 6-10 were observed from an excellent vantage point during the period Feb02-Feb26. Major findings will be presented at the International Conference on Substorms in Graz, Austria and at the Fall AGU meeting in San Francisco. Preliminary results will be presented at the Spring AGU meeting in Fort Lauderdale. So far, the magentotail looks far more interesting than ever before.

    January, 2008:

    Constellation Status:

    EFI deployment operations for the entire constellation were completed on 14 January 2008 with the deployment of THEMIS-A axial booms. This followed the deployment of THEMIS-A spin planes booms the previous week. In total, the EFI had nominal deploys of 20 wire boom and 10 stacer boom systems.

    November, 2007:

    Constellation Status:

    With the final EFI deployment of Probe P1 (THEMIS B), the constellation is now fully configured, checked out, and ready to start tail season operations. The EFI deployment for THEMIS B (P1) was achieved in 3 work days, spread out over 2 orbits (8 days). All boom deploy and spin-up activities were nominal with characteristics very close to those observed during the deploy of THEMIS C-E (P2-P4).

    October, 2007:

    Constellation Status:

    On October 12th P1 (TH-B) was placed in its final, 31Re apogee orbit. This completed the bulk of maneuvers for P1 (minor tweak maneuvers to be continued throughout the mission). Both P1(THB) and P2(THC) are now pointing on ecliptic-science-south, i.e., roughly normal to the ecliptic but 8deg away from the Sun (computed for early February 2007). The inner three, P3(TH-D), P4(TH-E), P5(TH-A) are expected to continue to be targeting an ecliptic-science-north attitude (8deg towards the Sun for early February 2007). The reason for this 8deg angle is to permit good quality EFI measurements (avoids sphere shadowing and ensures a large angle between the nominal magnetic field and the spin plane which allows robust computation of E along the spin axis from the E*B=0 approximation). More data is expecting to be flowing down soon given this new attitude; software uploads, instrument configurations, and burst triggers are expected to also be finalized in the next 2 months.

    August 16 - September 3, 2007:

    Constellation Status:

    The THEMIS constellation continues to operate nominally and is in a very good state of health. No anomalies were encountered since the release of the most recent, formal Mission Operations Report (No. 16). All instruments are turned on and are collecting science data.

    Summary of Recent Activities:

    • The THEMIS mission has successfully completed the Coast Phase science operations that officially lasted for two months (July 1 - August 31, 2007).
    • All five probes underwent attitude precession maneuvers - THEMIS A and D on August 31, DOY 243, and THEMIS B, C and E on September 1, DOY 244 - in preparation of the upcoming, first axial thruster firings. All attitude maneuvers achieved their goals. Post-maneuver processing as well as orbit and attitude determination are in progress to provide the baseline Probe states for the final Mission Design run prior to the first set of orbit maneuvers.

    August 9 - August 15, 2007:

    Constellation Status:

    The THEMIS constellation continues to function very well. All five probes are currently in 31.3 hour coast phase orbits with their spin axis pointing towards the ecliptic north pole with a +8 deg tilt towards the ecliptic longitude of the Sun on February 7th, 2008. All instruments are powered on and continue to function well and are collecting science The EFI spin-plane and axial booms are completely deployed on THEMIS C (P2), D (P3), and E (P4), while those on THEMIS B (P1) and A (P5) will remain stowed until their mission orbit placement is completed.

    Summary of Recent Activities:

    • IDPU Flight software version 0x47 was uploaded to RAM on THEMIS on A, B, and D
    • Cold reset recovery on THEMIS E

    August 2 - August 8, 2007:

    Constellation Status:

    The THEMIS constellation continues to function very well. All five probes are currently in 31.3 hour coast phase orbits with their spin axis pointing towards the ecliptic north pole with a +8 deg tilt towards the ecliptic longitude of the Sun on February 7th, 2008. All instruments are powered on and continue to function well and are collecting science The EFI spin-plane and axial booms are completely deployed on THEMIS C (P2), D (P3), and E (P4), while those on THEMIS B (P1) and A (P5) will remain stowed until their mission orbit placement is completed.

    Summary of Recent Activities:

    • BEB table revision F and IDPU script set 0004 version 6 upload to THEMIS A-E
    • ETC table version 7 upload to EEPROM on THEMIS B-E
    • RTS59 upload to THEMIS A-E

    July 26 - August 1, 2007:

    Constellation Status:

    The THEMIS constellation continues to function very well. All five probes are currently in 31.3 hour coast phase orbits with their spin axis pointing towards the ecliptic north pole with a +8 deg tilt towards the ecliptic longitude of the Sun on February 7th, 2008. All instruments are powered on and continue to function well and are collecting science The EFI spin-plane and axial booms are completely deployed on THEMIS C (P2), D (P3), and E (P4), while those on THEMIS B (P1) and A (P5) will remain stowed until their mission orbit placement is completed.

    Summary of Activities:

    • Reconfiguration of Burst Memory on THEMIS C
    • ESA MCP Electron HV change on THEMIS A, B and E
    • ESA MCP gain toggle test on all probes
    • ETC version 7 table load to EEPROM on THEMIS A

    July 19-25, 2007:

    Constellation Status:

    The THEMIS constellation continues to function very well. All five probes are currently in 31.3 hour coast phase orbits with their spin axis pointing towards the ecliptic north pole with a +8 deg tilt towards the ecliptic longitude of the Sun on February 7th, 2008. All instruments are powered on and continue to function well and are collecting science The EFI spin-plane and axial booms are completely deployed on THEMIS C (P2), D (P3), and E (P4), while those on THEMIS B (P1) and A (P5) will remain stowed until their mission orbit placement is completed.

    Summary of Activities:

    • EFI sensor optimization on THEMIS C, D, and E
    • ESA MCP gain toggle tests on THEMIS A and E
    • SSR power cycle on THEMIS E
    • Testing of various instrument control and data acquisition modes via ATS loads

    June 28 - July 18, 2007:

    Constellation Status:

    The THEMIS constellation continues to function very well. All five probes are currently in 31.3 hour coast phase orbits with their spin axis pointing towards the ecliptic north pole with a +8 deg tilt towards the ecliptic longitude of the Sun on February 7th, 2008. All instruments are powered on and continue to function well and are collecting science The EFI spin-plane and axial booms are completely deployed on THEMIS C (P2), D (P3), and E (P4), while those on THEMIS B (P1) and A (P5) will remain stowed until their mission orbit placement is completed.

    June 7, 2007:

    Constellation Status:

    The THEMIS constellation continues to operate nominally and is in a very good state of health. No anomalies were encountered. All instruments are turned on and are collecting science data. As of this morning, three probes - THEMIS C, D and E - have their Electric Field Instruments completely deployed, and all EFI sensors are working nominally. The EFI booms on THEMIS B (P1) and THEMIS A (P5) will be deployed after their mission orbit placement is completed in late 2007 and early 2008, respectively. All stored science and engineering data are recovered regularly with a success rate of nearly 100% across the constellation. The THEMIS ground systems continue to function very well.

    May 15th, 2007:

    Constellation Status:

    The THEMIS constellation continues to operate nominally and is in a very good state of health. All instruments are turned on and are collecting science data. All stored science and engineering data are recovered regularly with a success rate of nearly 100% across the constellation.

    Recent Events:

    Completed EFI deployment steps 0-12 on THEMIS C (see URL listed below). Please note that the deployment sequence was optimized and now only requires 14 steps (0-13). The only remaining step for this probe is the axial boom release (step 13) which is scheduled for later this week.

    The EFI spin-plane boom deployment went very smooth - there were no issues with dynamic stability during the deployment or following spin-up maneuvers. The dual pulse spin-up procedure worked very well. According to the EFI team, the instrument generates science data with excellent quality.

    Completed all required orbit maneuvers for the coast phase placement of THEMIS A, B and D.

    May 14th, 2007:

    Constellation Status:

    The THEMIS constellation continues to operate nominally and is in a very good state of health. All instruments are turned on and are collecting science data.

    Occasional hang-ups of the ETC FPGA that controls data acquisition from the SSTs and ESAs were observed again on multiple probes. The FPGA was successfully reset on these probes. A work-around is still tested on FlatSat. No other anomalies were encountered.

    Recent Events:

    Ran science-like orbits on all five probes.

    Uploaded new IDPU FSW Version 0x43 (patch) to all five probes which fixes two issues (data compression and time tagging of FGM data). Data compression was successfully exercised on THEMIS D. FGM data are now time-tagged correctly on all five probes, improving attitude determination with MSASS significantly.

    Started final EFI commissioning phase (steps 0-2) on THEMIS C (P2). On DOY 129 (March 9) the probe was spun up to 20 rpm, the EFI X and Y spin-plane boom doors were opened, and the X and Y axis booms were deployed by 5m each. The observed spin rate change during the deployment was nominal. The EFI Scientist reported nominal sensor operation.

    Plans for Upcoming Weeks:

    Continue with: EFI commissioning steps 3-15 on THEMIS C and orbit placement for the coast phase.

    Deploy EFI booms on THEMIS D and E.

    Test: data compression on probes THEMIS A, B, C and E; control of science data acquisition via instrument triggers.

    Please refer to THEMIS Mission Operations Report No. 6 for additional reference material. Report No. 7 will cover DOY 113-127 (April 23 - May 7) and should be released by the end of this week.

    May 2nd, 2007:

    Constellation Status:

    The THEMIS constellation continues to operate nominally and is in a very good state of health. All instruments are turned on and are collecting science data. No anomalies were encountered.

    Events of Last Week:

    Performed attitude precession maneuver to science north on THEMIS A-D, using axial thruster A2. All 20 thruster across the constellation have now been exercised and function nominally.

    Performed spin-up maneuver to 20 rpm on THEMIS A and B, using the dual-pulse-per-spin thrusting technique with tangential thruster T1. This mode is required to be used for all spin-up maneuvers to maintain dynamic stability of the probes, once EFI spin-plane boom deployment has started.

    Uploaded IDPU FSW patch 0x43, new IDPU script set 0004 and ETC Table Checker program to THEMIS C

    Plans for Upcoming Weeks:

    Per agreement, GSFC/FDF will reduce back-up orbit determination to one OD solution per probe per month on DOY 120 until the mission orbit placement begins in fall. UCB/FDC continues to generate OD solutions for all probes typically 2-3 times per week, and continues to deliver tracking data to FDF for each pass.

    Upload IDPU FSW patch 0x43 to THEMIS D and E (DOY 120) Select ESA mode "Shocked Solar Wind" on THEMIS E

    Upload IDPU FSW patch 0x43 to THEMIS A and B (DOY 123) Enable data compression on THEMIS D

    Repeat FGM commissioning procedure on all probes near apogee (per request of FGM team)

    Run science-like orbits on all probes

    Perform perigee raise maneuver on THEMIS E (DOY 129)

    Perform EFI deployement on THEMIS C over 6 orbits (DOY 129-136) Detailed plans will be finalized during the upcoming week.

    Please refer to THEMIS Mission Operations Report No. 6 for additional reference material.

    Report No. 7 will cover DOY 113-127 (April 23 - May 7).

    March 29th-April 6th, 2007:

    Current Constellation Status:

    All five probes are safe and healthy, and are in stable orbits. The attitudes are nearly ecliptic normal. All science instruments are operational and are collecting data.

    Please refer to the THEMIS Constellation Status web page for detailed, current status information (see below).

    A preliminary orbit placement decision was made on March 27:

      • THEMIS A -> P5 Orbit
      • THEMIS B -> P1 Orbit
      • THEMIS C -> P2 Orbit
      • THEMIS D -> P3 Orbit
      • THEMIS E -> P4 Orbit

    The mission orbit placement will begin in late August, and will be completed in preparation of the first winter observing season "Tail 1" when the probe orbits will be aligned with the Earth's magneto tail. Meanwhile, all five probes are maintained in temporary "coast phase" orbits.

    Following the launch dispersion, the five probes ended up in nearly identical orbits where C is leading and E trailing the group D-B-A with differential orbital periods of -/+ 5 min, respectively:

    <------C--------D-B-A--------E-----

    The desired configuration for the coast phase is as follows:

    <------B--------C-E-D--------A-----

    Based on the probe placement decision, THEMIS C, D and E will have their EFI booms deployed early (see below), and should ideally be at the center of the coast phase constellation at apogee.

    Recently Completed Tasks:

    Performed perigee raise maneuvers with each probe to control the differential precession of the argument of perigee amongst the five probe orbits and to calibrate the thrusters:

    DOY 87: THEMIS C perigee raise by 25 km to 585 km (delta V 1.3 m/s)

    DOY 88: THEMIS A perigee raise by 70 km to 652 km (delta V 3.6 m/s) THEMIS D perigee raise by 70 km to 660 km (delta V 3.4 m/s) THEMIS E perigee raise by 70 km to 656 km (delta V 3.6 m/s)

    DOY 93: THEMIS B perigee raise by 70 km to 691 km (delta V 3.6 m/s)

    DOY 94: THEMIS C perigee raise by 70 km to 705 km (delta V 3.5 m/s)

     

    Performed the first of a series of additional orbit maneuvers to position the five probes for the coast phase:

    DOY 95: THEMIS D perigee raise by 363 km to 1050 km (delta V 20.9 m/s)

    All delta V maneuvers were accomplished in side thrust mode, using the two tangential thrusters with a 60 deg thrust angle at a spin rate of approximately 20 rpm. Small attitude and spin rate changes were encountered as an undesired, but unavoidable byproduct of the side thrust maneuvers. These changes will be corrected later.

    Performed post-maneuver operations, including maneuver reconstruction and calibration, orbit and attitude determination.

    Refined mission trajectory design for the coast phase, based on inputs from the PI and the science team.

    Completed various science-like orbits to test data acquisition modes.

    Ongoing Activities:

    All pass activities are conducted with FOT on console. Passes are currently still taken in blind acquisition mode, allowing a high degree of operational flexibility for re-planning.

    ATS loads are used primarily to reconfigure instruments in various orbit regions and to support maneuver operations.

    Characterization of instruments in science-like orbits. A dedicated 'fields' orbit for all five probes will start on DOY 98.

    Telemetry recovery, archiving, processing and data trending.

    Communications tests with BGS, using BPSK at the lowest six data rates to assess potential gains in link margin at large ranges.

    Investigation of various anomalies.

    Upcoming Tasks:

    Maneuver operations for the coast phase orbit placement:

    All probes will perform additional apogee and/or perigee change maneuvers over the course of the next few months to achieve and maintain the coast phase constellation. The maneuver sequence is designed such that minimum fuel is consumed and virtually all of the perigee and apogee changes count towards the mission orbit placement.

    EFI boom deployment on 3 probes (THEMIS C, D and E):

    THEMIS D (P3) will begin with the EFI boom deployment on DOY 106 (April 16). The entire sequence alternates between boom deployment steps, instrument test and calibration runs, and data recovery near perigee; this takes 6 orbits (8 days) to complete.

    The EFI boom deployment sequences for THEMIS C (P2) and E (P4) will be interleaved and are currently scheduled to begin on DOY 128 (May 8).

    Note that the EFI booms for THEMIS A (P5) and B (P1) will be deployed after their mission orbit placement is completed. These two probes require the largest fuel usage for their orbit placement. Delaying the boom deployment will allow for a rapid ascent of THEMIS B to the P1 orbit by using efficient attitude precession maneuvers and axial thruster burns for the delta V maneuvers. THEMIS A (P5) is the designated on-orbit spare and will have its EFI booms deployed, once THEMIS B (P1) has completed its orbit placement. The other three probes will perform their mission orbit placement using the tangential thrusters in "side thrust mode".

    March 14th, 2007: In the past day, we performed telecom tests at apogee with all probes and multiple ground stations.  These were very successful showing us the probes can telemeter at 64 K bits per second to Berkeley throughout this orbit. Probe C and D SSTs were turned on again and left running in order to get a measurement with no ESA High Voltage sweeps.  Probe E SST was reconfigured.  Probe B ESA ions and electrons were brought up in High Voltage.

    At the present time, ESA HV is running on A and B, while SST is up and running on C and D.  Science data is being collected and returned successfully in Slow Survey mode. Assuming data looks good overnight, we'll raise ESA High Voltage on C, D and E while turning on SST A, B and E.  That would complete the initial commissioning on all instruments.

    March 12th, 2007: Today, ESA electron High Voltages were checked out on probes A, B, D and E. Each was ramped up successfully to full voltage and all four performed beautifully.  Probe C ESA was not ramped up because of the ongoing set up issue with the ESA/SST controller.  We plan to get back to that probe tomorrow.

    March 11th, 2007: Today, the SST on Probe C was powered up again in order to check out the sun-blanking circuitry.  Currents looked good and stable, but the expected packet telemetry was not coming through.  Once again, SST was turned off while engineers worked on an updated plan for SST.

    All probes are in good health and their orbits are well known.

    March 10th, 2007: Today, ESA ion High Voltages were checked out on all five probes. Each was ramped up successfully to full voltage and all five performed perfectly.  Probe A ESA was intentionally left at high voltage while the other probe ESAs were ramped down for the time being. The science team reports nominal performance from all five ESAs, and excellent science data quality from the THEMIS A Ion detector.

    All probes are in good health and their orbits are well known

    March 8th, 2007: Today, SSTs on Probes B and C were turned on and their attenuators were exercised.  Probe D's SST was not commissioned since the SSR was still full from ESAs commissioning yesterday.  Probe A and E SSTs were turned on, but due to sun in their apertures at these attitudes, their currents red-limited and they were turned off before the end of their contacts. By the end of the day, all SSTs were powered off in order to allow manevers to proceed.

    Probes A, E, D and B were maneuvered to ecliptic normal, enabling better communications, stable power and thermal conditions.  Fuel usage since launch has been a mere 0.2 kg.

    Science and engineering data for all probes was played out.  All probes remain in good health and their orbits are well known.

    March 7th, 2007: Today, all ESA covers were successfully opened using their primary actuators. Each ESA was tested with its internal test pulser and all ESAs performed well. Later this week we will turn on the High Voltage to the ions and electrons.

    March 5th, 2007: Today, we aborted planned maneuvers on Probes A, D and E due to poor link margin.  The probes were over 87000 km range and could not sustain RF link to the BGS antenna. We are replanning these maneuvers for later in the week, while proceeding ahead with the commissioning in the current attitude.

    All five probes remain in excellent health, with the Fluxgate, Search Coil, Electric Field and ESA Low Voltage on.

    March 4th, 2007: Over the weekend, Probes B and C were maneuvered so that their antennae were north-south with respect to the ecliptic.  While both maneuvers were successful in general, Probe B's maneuver on Saturday resulted in a side tilt of 40+ degrees to the ecliptic plane.  This was confirmed when the Probe passed through perigee and its FGM data showed the tilt.

    Probe C's maneuver sequence was modified to include newly determined information about the probes, so C's maneuver on Sunday was picture perfect. 

    Probes A, D and E will be maneuvered to ecliptic normal in the early morning of Mar 6 and, assuming those maneuvers go well,  Probe B will be tipped up on Mar 7.

    All five probes remain in excellent health, with the Fluxgate, Search Coil, Electric Field and ESA Low Voltage on.

    February 27th, 2007: Today, Probes D and E were spun up to 20 RPM following their magnetometer boom deployments yesterday.  All probes continue taking magnetic data in preparation for a maneuver to ecliptic normal attitude. 

    The planned maneuvers to ecliptic normal will be performed in steps, where Probes B & C will maneuver on Friday and Probes D, A & E will maneuver on Saturday.  This allows science data to be recovered in an unusual mixed configuration; ie. two probes rotated with respect to the other three.

    All five probes remain in excellent health, with the Fluxgate, Search Coil, Electric Field and ESA Low Voltage on.

    February 26th, 2007: Today, Probes A, B and C were spun up to 20 RPM following their magnetometer boom deployments over the weekend.  Probes D and E had their magnetometer booms deployed.  All probes are taking magnetic data in preparation for a maneuver to ecliptic normal attitude at the end of the week.

    All five probes remain in excellent health, with the Fluxgate, Search Coil, Electric Field and ESA Low Voltage on.

    February 24th, 2007: The last 24 hours have seen an amazing amount of accomplishments on the five probes. All five EFI and SCM instruments were turned on, a calibration of Probe B FGM was performed, and all probes were spun down to 11 RPM.  We recovered all engineering and science data from all probes, too.
     
    As the probes have begun to separate a little, we were also able to contact three probes simultaneously using three different ground stations.  Probes E, D and C telemetered to Berkeley, Santiago and Wallops at 512, 256 and 128 kbps, and the data routing network worked perfectly.  Of the 20 passes during the day, Berkeley had 13, Santiago 1, Haartebeestok 1 and Wallops had 5 tracking passes.
     
    All five probes remain in excellent health.  Temperatures are very mild on the probes now in their nominal attitude with sun on their side panels. 

    February 23rd, 2007: Today, Probes C and B EFI and SCM instruments were turned on and Probe B FGM calibration performed at mid-range.  All systems were nominal in current and temperature.  The first THEMIS instrument data for EFI and SCM data were played out and looked nominal.
     
    All five probes were de-spun from their initial spin rate of 16-17 RPM down to 11 RPM, in preparation for the upcoming magnetometer boom deployment. This involved firing the radial thrusters for 6 to 7.5 seconds depending upon the initial spin rate.  As we expected, each spacecraft wobbled a bit, but telemetry and commanding were unaffected.
     
    All five probes remain in excellent health.  Temperatures are very mild on the probes now in their nominal attitude with sun on their side panels.  Engineers are continuing data collection and analysis on two technical items. The first item involves the occasional false over-voltage trips in charging circuits and the second involves measuring the command and telemetry link performance.  There were no over-voltage-trips today.
     
    Communications with the probes have been very successful with Berkeley Ground Station but not yet with Wallops.  Last night we had successful telemetry at 64 KHz at a distance of over 70000 km using Probe B yet we were unable to lock on RF carrier with Wallops just moments earlier.
     

    February 22, 2007: Today, on all Probes the Instrument Data Processors, FluxGate Magnetometers and ESA Low Voltage Power Supplies were turned on and checked out. All systems were nominal in current and temperature. FGM sensor data recording began and we should see the first science data play out in the next orbit.

    Probe A was rolled so that the sun is on its side-panels rather than on its top. This will cool the top down.

    All five probes are in very good health. Temperatures are very mild on the probes now in their nominal attitude with sun on their side panels. Engineers are finalizing data collection and analysis on two technical items at this time. The first item involved the occasional false over-voltage trips in charging circuits and the second involved measuring the command and telemetry link performance.

    Communications with the probes have improved greatly due to better orbit and attitude information. For example, last night we had successful telemetry at 64 KHz at a distance of over 50000 km using Probe A

    February 21st, 2007: Today, THEMIS Probes B, C, D and E were successfully maneuvered 33 degrees as planned to have sun on their side solar arrays. Each maneuver took about 2.5 minutes while each probe fired 40 pulses on one of the axial thrusters in phase with the spin. This attitude provides better temperatures around the probes as well as better communication to the ground. By plan, Probe A was left in the launch attitude for one half orbit until we contact it one more time with TDRS. After that time, Probe A will be rolled to the same attitude as the other four.

    All five probes are in very good health, but the team is currently working two technical items at this time, one regarding occasional false over-voltage trips in charging circuits and the second involves measuring the command and telemetry link performance.

    First, the occasional false over-voltage-protection trips are essentially due to the fact that the the batteries are fully charged. Small noise on the battery readings have caused the circuits to occasionally think that the battery is too full. In response, the circuits shunt power for a few minutes until the battery voltage is a fraction lower. It has become apparent that the solar arrays are putting out more power than projected, and that the shunts are barely able to regulate. Thus, we have turned on additional heaters to balance the energy in the probe.

    Second, initial poor communications with the probes is to a large extent due to a shorter than predicted orbit. The orbits are now 1.073 x 14.697 Re at 15.9 degrees. As we have learned how to point the antenna better, communications at high data rates are a regular occurrence. Still, we've noticed that Charlie and Bravo have the best performance while the other three have 2-5 dB dips in their signals at certain orientations. These dips may be due to the un-deployed magnetometer booms on the top of the spacecraft and may go away when we deploy them Sunday 2/25/07.

    February 17th, 2007: NASA's THEMIS mission successfully launched at 6:01 p.m. EST from Pad 17-B at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. All trajectories appeared right on target. First contact at the Berkeley Ground Station was successful.


    Watch the launch video.

    January 29th, 2007: Today the THEMIS spacecraft will be mated to the 3rd stage of the rocket. You can get video of this by clicking on the link "AE Video 1 Streaming Feed" at the following URL: http://countdown.ksc.nasa.gov/elv/.

    January 26th, 2007: THEMIS will be launched from the same Pad as STEREO. Jetty Park is 2.9 miles from the pad and is apparently closer than the official site. Visit this website for information about launch viewing: Where & How to Watch Delta 2 Launches.

    January 24th, 2007: THEMIS passed its Mission Readiness Board review yesterday. The NASA Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate, Mary Cleave, stated that the mission is a pathfinder for future Heliospheric constellations and thanked the team for its efforts in making it possible for the entire community. Deputy AA Colleen Hartman stated that this is a scientifically very exciting mission and that she felt really fortunate to see it through end-to-end in her term. Dick Fisher, Heliophysics Division director, stated that the team performance in general and in this review in particular, sets a very high standard for missions to come.