NASA launches upper atmosphere weather satellite

5 On Your Side meteorologist Jessica Quick was one of 40 people chosen from around the world to attend the NASA Social event on the GOLD launch.

Last Thursday, NASA successfully launched it's latest mission, GOLD, a project aimed at studying the weather in Earth's upper atmosphere.

GOLD, or Global-Scale Observations of the Limb and Disk, will measure the temperatures and densities of the air through the thermosphere and ionosphere via ultraviolet imaging on a geostationary satellite.

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Earth's ionosphere is a very thin layer of air particles in the upper atmosphere that is always in flux between Earth's conditions and what is happening in space just beyond.

The ionosphere is home to radio signals that guide aircraft and ships, along with satellites that provide communication and GPS systems.

The GOLD mission is expected to examine the disturbances in the ionosphere that appear like charged bubbles over the equator and tropics that could interfere with radio communications.

GOLD will also help scientists understand how weather processes in the upper atmosphere change in response to hurricanes or geomagnetic storms, for example.

Scientists have concluded that tropical cyclones in the troposphere (where humans live) could have affects on the ionosphere.

The GOLD apparatus will scan the full disk, or get a complete image of the ionosphere to compile into forecast models of the upper atmosphere.

The new measurements by GOLD will give scientists a better understanding of the physics and math involved in the model.

The whole apparatus weighs about 80 pounds and was built at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Last Wednesday, NASA held a social media event before the launch, and 5 On Your Side meteorologist Jessica Quick was one of 40 people in the world to be chosen to attend the event along with 3 other meteorologists from different parts of the country.

Those who attended got to hear from scientists who worked on the project, and those who will be interpreting the data GOLD gathers to further advance knowledge of the upper atmosphere.

We also got to tour the LASP facility, where several spacecraft are assembled on site. One of the assembly rooms was 50 times more sterile than a standard surgical operating room in a hospital. The environment must be extremely clean to make sure all goes smoothly during a launch.

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At the end of the social, we toured NCAR, or the National Center for Atmospheric Research. The facility is state of the art and open to the public 24/7.

The center features demonstrations on how certain surface weather processes work, such as tornadoes, as well as how forecast models work, and some of the instruments used to forecast weather from past to present.

Scientists also work here to improve several forecast models meteorologists use on a daily basis.