Aurora-Tracking Satellites Get Extra Help to Study Space Weather

Teamwork makes the dream work.

Like the old saying goes, the more the merrier. AAstronomers at the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency seem to have taken inspiration from the idiom.

The ESA and its Canadian counterpart have combined two of their individual satellite missions into one. Uniting these two projects will allow researchers to capture even more detailed images of Earth’s weather from space and study magnetic phenomena in the atmosphere, like the Aurora Borealis.

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The Canadian Space Agency’s multi-purpose Cassiope satellite will join forces with the ESA’s trio of magnetic-field analyzing satellites, named Swarm.

Swarm has been in orbit since 2013 and sends back an abundance of information regarding the Earth’s magnetic field that defends the planet form powerful solar wind radiation. Cassiope was also launched in 2013 with a device meant to analyze weather patterns from space, known as e-POP.

Canada’s Cassiope satellite carries e-POP, which consists of eight instruments to provide information on Earth’s ionosphere, thermosphere and magnetosphere for a better understanding of space weather.

Canadian Space Agency, 2018

Both space agencies realized that if they were to collaborate, their orbiters could beam them back a whole new wealth of information that they otherwise couldn’t acquire on their own.

“Swarm and e-POP have several unique measurement capabilities that are highly complementary,” said Andrew Yau, from the University of Calgary who was involved in the Cassiope mission, said in a statement. “By integrating e-POP into the Swarm constellation, the international scientific community will be able to pursue a host of new scientific investigations into magnetosphere–ionosphere coupling, including Earth’s magnetic field and related current systems, upper-atmospheric dynamics and aurora dynamics.”

This orbital tag-team will help the astronomers involved better understand how Earth’s magnetic field shields us from dangerous electrically charged atomic particle, observe complex weather patterns, and get some jaw-dropping pictures of the northern lights.

Teamwork does make the dream work, after all.