Setting stars reveal planetary secretsNovember 14th, 2007 - 8:34 am ICT by admin
According to the European Space Agency, France was the first to suggest its use.
Stellar occultation works by watching stars from space, while they drop behind the atmosphere of a planet under investigation, before disappearing from view below the planet’s horizon.
When the stars are shining above the atmosphere, they give off radiation across a wide spread of wavelengths. As the orbit of the spacecraft carries it around the planet, the star appears to sink down, behind the atmosphere of the planet.
The atmosphere acts as a filter, blocking out certain wavelengths of the star’s radiation. The key to this technique is that the blocked wavelengths are representative of the molecules and atoms in the planet’s atmosphere.
ESA currently has three spacecraft around three different planets that are using the technique to investigate those atmospheres. Each one is returning unique insights.
Around Earth, ESA’s Envisat mission carries an instrument called GOMOS (Global Ozone Monitoring by Occultation of Stars). As its name suggests, it is designed to study whether the quantity of ozone is increasing now that the use of harmful chemicals has been banned.
Since 2002, it has been watching about 400 stars set behind the Earth every day in order to build up a map of the ozone in the Earth’s atmosphere for all latitudes and longitudes. simplified stellar occultation instrument is onboard ESA’s Mars Express. Since the spacecraft arrived at the Red Planet in 2003, SPICAM (Spectroscopy for Investigation of Characteristics of the Atmosphere of Mars) has observed more than 1000 stellar occultations.
This work provides the most detailed description yet of Mars’s upper atmosphere, and reveals persistent haze layers.
Apart from delivering pure science, the data provides practical benefits for future exploration missions.
The latest addition to this family of instruments is SPICAV (Spectroscopy for Investigation of Characteristics of the Atmosphere of Venus) on Venus Express.
Venus has a different atmosphere again from Earth or Mars. It is much denser and SPICAV is revealing the temperature and density profiles of the atmosphere to waiting scientists on Earth, who expect to publish their results soon. (ANI)
- Venus has an ozone layer too - Oct 10, 2011
- Venus could hold warning for Earth - Dec 01, 2010
- NASA's Mars rover begins research in space - Dec 14, 2011
- ESA's Venus Express explores planet's poisonous atmosphere - Oct 07, 2010
- NASA's Spitzer detects light of alien 'Super-Earth' - May 09, 2012
- Double eye of Venus polar vortex disappears - Sep 24, 2010
- Indian astronomy satellite to study universe at multi-wavelengths - Jul 16, 2012
- Mars rover begins space research - Dec 14, 2011
- NASA's Messenger fetches first orbital photo of Mercury - Mar 30, 2011
- NASA spacecraft becomes first to enter Mercury orbit - Mar 18, 2011
- NASA's Messenger spacecraft begins historic orbit around mercury - Mar 18, 2011
- NASA's Messenger set to solve tantalizing mysteries about Mercury - Mar 16, 2011
- NASA confirms presence of 'baked cometary planet' - Jul 16, 2010
- Venus Probe Misses Its Target, Will Return After 6 Years - Dec 09, 2010
- Hubble discovers new, all-water planet - Feb 22, 2012
Tags: atmosphere acts, atmosphere of mars, carries, earth, envisat mission, european space agency, exploration missions, global ozone, harmful chemicals, investigation, latitudes and longitudes, mars express, orbit, radiation, red planet, spacecraft, stellar occultation, stellar occultations, upper atmosphere, wavelengths