Scientists pinpoint ‘edge of space’, 118 km above earth

April 10th, 2009 - 2:08 pm ICT by IANS  

Toronto, April 10 (IANS) A new tool created by scientists has helped them pinpoint the ‘edge of space’, 118 km above sea level.
It is the point where the relatively gentle winds of earth’s atmosphere give way to more violent flows of charged particles in outer space, exceeding speed of 1,000 kmph.

Data from the University of Calgary-designed instrument sent on board a NASA launch from Alaska about two years ago made this feat possible.

The instrument, Supra-Thermal Ion Imager, carried by JOULE-II rocket on Jan 19, 2007, collected data for the five minutes it was moving through this window, at an altitude of 200 km.

The ability to gather data in that area is significant because it’s very difficult to make measurements in this region, which is too high for balloons and too low for satellites.

“It’s only the second time that direct measurements of charged particle flows have been made in this region, and the first time all the ingredients - such as the upper atmospheric winds - have been included,” said David Knudsen, associate physics and astronomy professor at Calgary.

Knudsen and his former PhD student Laureline Sangalli co-authored the paper. The measurements confirmed what other scientists consider the boundary or edge of space, said a Calgary release.

The results were published this week in the Journal of Geophysical Research.

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