NASA finds boundary between Earth’s ionosphere and space is shrinking

Posted: December 16, 2015 by oldbrew in atmosphere, research, solar system dynamics

Communication and Navigation Outage Forecast System (C/NOFS) [credit: NASA]

Communication and Navigation Outage Forecast System (C/NOFS) [credit: NASA]

NASA instrumentation shows ‘the quietest solar minimum since the space age began’, as reports.

Observations made by NASA instruments onboard an Air Force satellite have shown that the boundary between the Earth’s upper atmosphere and space has moved to extraordinarily low altitudes.

These observations were made by the Coupled Ion Neutral Dynamics Investigation (CINDI) instrument suite, which was launched aboard the U.S. Air Force’s Communication/Navigation Outage Forecast System (C/NOFS) satellite on April 16, 2008.

The CINDI suite, which was built under the direction Principal Investigator Rod Heelis of the University of Texas at Dallas, includes both ion and neutral sensors and makes measurements of the variations in neutral and ion densities and drifts.

CINDI and C/NOFS were designed to study disturbances in Earth’s ionosphere that can result in a disruption of navigation and communication signals. The ionosphere is a gaseous envelope of electrically charged particles that surrounds our planet and it is important because Radar, radio waves, and global positioning system signals can be disrupted by ionospheric disturbances.

CINDI’s first discovery was, however, that the ionosphere was not where it had been expected to be. During the first months of CINDI operations the transition between the ionosphere and space was found to be at about 260 miles (420 km) altitude during the nighttime, barely rising above 500 miles (800 km) during the day. These altitudes were extraordinarily low compared with the more typical values of 400 miles (640 km) during the nighttime and 600 miles (960 km) during the day.

The height of the ionosphere/space transition is controlled in part by the amount of extreme ultraviolet energy emitted by the Sun and a somewhat contracted ionosphere could have been expected because C/NOFS was launched during a minimum in the 11-year cycle of solar activity. However, the size of the actual contraction caught investigators by surprise. In fact, when they looked back over records of solar activity, they found that C/NOFS had been launched during the quietest solar minimum since the space age began.

This extraordinary circumstance is providing an unparalleled opportunity to study the connection between the interior dynamics of the Sun and the response of the Earth’s space environment.

Source: NASA instruments document contraction of the boundary between the Earth’s ionosphere, space

  1. oldbrew says:

    ‘the quietest solar minimum since the space age began’

    And very likely to be since a good bit before the space age began.

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  3. craigm350 says:

    Reblogged this on WeatherAction News and commented:
    Interesting…is it Co2? 😉

    Michele also dropped this NASA report from 2009 in the comments:

  4. oldbrew says:

    Thanks Michele.

    Is anyone considering whether a reducing ionosphere and a cooling thermosphere might be linked phenomena – or is it already known, one way or the other?

    ‘known’ as in ‘there may be some evidence’

  5. TLMango says:

    Hey there Oldbrew,
    Definitely!! In the very near future WeatherCycles and I will be tackling this subject
    and how it is related Ray Tomes’s ‘Harmonic Theory’.
    A necessary prerequisite for this topic would be Rolf Witzsche’s video:
    New Ice Age Near – 58 part evidence (II) – youtube

  6. J Martin says:

    Presumably lower upper layers also lead to a lower troposphere. So the radiating sphere is smaller leading to less energy radiated to outer space, but then the path to space is shorter so photons are more likely to escape leading to more energy radiated to outer space. ?

  7. tchannon says:

    As I have been pointing out for some time.

    The effect of this variation, what it actually does lower down is poorly known.

  8. […] Source: NASA finds boundary between Earth’s ionosphere and space is shrinking […]

  9. oldbrew says:

    ‘A rocket was launched on Sunday 13 December 2015 to study the Earth’s magnetic field above Norway.’

    ‘The thermosphere begins some 56 miles above Earth and the process of upwelling, which involves neutral atoms that carry no electrical charge and are denser than charged particles, has been known to exist since the earliest days of the space program when observers noted increased drag on Earth-orbiting satellites during periods of increased solar activity. The drag intensifies when the dense neutral atoms create “speed bumps” that slow satellites down and can eventually make them fall back into Earth’s atmosphere. [bold added]

    At the time, the effect was largely attributed to large-scale motion in the ionosphere, which begins at 37 miles above Earth, heating the thermosphere from below. However, more recent observations have shown that neutral thermospheric upwelling can also occur on much smaller scales and can be more localized in what’s known as the cusp region — two “funnels” of magnetic field lines that allow a small amount of solar wind to reach the top of the atmosphere and produce the auroral glow.’

  10. Power Grab says:

    craigm350: I remember reading that article in 2009. I thought at the time that it was likely related to the large drop in solar activity around 2006-2008. I figure we get more than just heat and light from the sun. Don’t we get the entire range of electromagnetism? I’m not clear what effect which wavelengths have on which elements of our environment. But I have it on good authority that the sequence is (1) the sun heats the earth, then (2) the earth heats the atmosphere. I also subscribe to certain electric universe concepts. They seem to make things fit together better.

  11. ren says:

    The geomagnetic field measured at any point on the Earth’s surface is a combination of several magnetic fields generated by various sources. These fields are superimposed on and interact with each other. More than 90% of the field measured is generated INTERNAL to the planet in the Earth’s outer core. This portion of the geomagnetic field is often referred to as the Main Field. The Main Field varies slowly in time and can be described by mathematical models such as the International Geomagnetic Reference Field (IGRF) and World Magnetic Model (WMM). The Earth’s Main Field dominates over the interplanetary magnetic field in the area called the magnetosphere. The magnetosphere is shaped somewhat like a comet in response to the dynamic pressure of the solar wind. It is compressed on the side toward the sun to about 10 Earth radii and is extended tail-like on the side away from the sun to more than 100 Earth radii. The magnetosphere deflects the flow of most solar wind particles around the Earth, while the geomagnetic field lines guide charged particle motion within the magnetosphere. The differential flow of ions and electrons inside the magnetosphere and in the ionosphere form current systems, which cause variations in the intensity of the Earth’s magnetic field. These EXTERNAL currents in the ionized upper atmosphere and magnetosphere vary on a much shorter time scale than the INTERNAL Main Field and may create magnetic fields as large as 10% of the Main Field.

  12. ren says:

    Magnetic field changes
    19 June 2014
    The first set of high-resolution results from ESA’s three-satellite Swarm constellation reveals the most recent changes in the magnetic field that protects our planet.

    Launched in November 2013, Swarm is providing unprecedented insights into the complex workings of Earth’s magnetic field, which safeguards us from the bombarding cosmic radiation and charged particles.

    June 2014 magnetic field
    Measurements made over the past six months confirm the general trend of the field’s weakening, with the most dramatic declines over the Western Hemisphere.

    But in other areas, such as the southern Indian Ocean, the magnetic field has strengthened since January.

    The latest measurements also confirm the movement of magnetic North towards Siberia.
    Current distribution of ozone in the stratosphere.

  13. oldbrew says:

    ‘Scientists are learning more about how the upper atmosphere and ionosphere affect space satellites as well as communications and navigation here on Earth, thanks to new data from a U.S. Air Force satellite that recently completed a more than seven-year mission.’

    ‘The C/NOFS data at these lower altitudes show that the upper atmosphere and ionosphere react strongly to even small changes in near-Earth space, said Rod Heelis, principal investigator at the UT-Dallas for NASA’s Coupled Ion-Neutral Dynamics Investigation (CINDI) instrument suite on board the satellite.

    The neutral atmosphere responds very dramatically to quite small energy inputs,” said Heelis. “Even though the energy is put in at high latitudes closer to the poles the reaction at lower latitudes, near the equator, is significant.” ‘

  14. […] Fonte :… […]