Satellite News

Satellites are used for a large number of purposes. Common types include military (spy) and civilian Earth observation satellites, communication satellites, navigation satellites, weather satellites, and research satellites.

Thumbnail Recent Post

NASA Probe Sees Solar Wind Decline

The 33-year odyssey of NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft has reached a distant point at the edge of our solar system where there is no outward motion of solar wind. Now hurtling toward interstellar space some 17.4 billion...

Super-Earth Atmosphere

A team of astronomers, including two NASA Sagan Fellows, has made the first characterizations of a super-Earth's atmosphere, by using a ground-based telescope...

Kepler Discovers

NASA's Kepler spacecraft has discovered the first confirmed planetary system with more than one planet crossing in front of, or transiting, the same star...

Pulverized Planet

Tight double-star systems might not be the best places for life to spring up, according to a new study using data from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope....

Dark Asteroids

NASA is set to launch a sensitive new infrared telescope to seek out sneaky things in the night sky -- among them, dark asteroids that could pose a threat to Earth....

During the Maunder Minimum, a period of diminished solar activity between 1645 and 1715, sunspots were rare on the face of the sun, sometimes disappearing entirely for months to years. At the same time, Earth experienced a bitter cold period known as the "Little Ice Age."

Were the events connected? Scientists cannot say for sure, but it's quite likely. Slowdowns in solar activity -- evidenced by reductions in sunspot numbers -- are known to coincide with decreases in the amount of energy discharged by the sun. During the Little Ice Age, though, few would have thought to track total solar irradiance (TSI), the amount of solar energy striking Earth's upper atmosphere. In fact, the scientific instrument needed to make such measurements -- a spaceborne radiometer -- was still three centuries into the future.

Modern scientists have several tools for studying TSI. Since the 1970s, scientists have relied upon a collection of radiometers on American and European spacecraft to keep a close eye on solar fluctuations from above the atmosphere, which intercepts much of the sun's radiation. When NASA launches the Glory satellite this fall (no earlier than October 2009), researchers will have a more accurate instrument for measuring TSI than they've ever had before.

The Total Irradiance Monitor (TIM) on Glory is more sophisticated, but still related in concept to the very earliest ground-based solar radiometers, which were invented in 1838. Where those radiometers used sunlight to heat water and indicate the intensity of the sun's brightness at the Earth's surface, Glory's TIM instrument will use a black-coated metallic detector to measure how much heat is produced by solar radiation as it reaches the top of the Earth's atmosphere.

Leave a Reply