How CubeSat Cameras Analyze Earth’s Magnetosphere?
Can a camera for CubeSat measure the Earth’s magnetosphere? Or are these things better suited to Earth monitoring? In this article, we will look at the versatility of CubeSat cameras and the importance of studying the Earth’s magnetosphere.
What Is the Magnetosphere of Earth?
The Earth is surrounded by magnetic fields known as the magnetosphere. These magnetic fields play a key role in protecting the Earth from radiation emitted from the sun and erosion caused by solar winds. The solar wind is a stream of plasma that is continuously emitted from the Sun. The magnetosphere causes them to travel around the Earth and prevents them from penetrating. The magnetosphere is massive and is 6 to 10 times the radius of Earth.
Scientists study the magnetosphere to understand the role it has in space. By studying the magnetosphere, researchers hope to reveal the physics of space which boils down to interwoven electromagnetic reactions. Also, space weather originating from the sun often reaches the magnetosphere and can severely damage spacecrafts and satellites. Space weather in the magnetosphere can wreak havoc on radio and GPS, preventing space technology from working. Scientists observe magnetosphere to more accurately predict space weather and protect spacecrafts and astronauts!
What Is a CubeSat Camera?
A camera for CubeSat camera is a specialized camera that is attached to a CubeSat. A CubeSat is a nanosatellite that has a box shape typically 10 X 10 X 10 cm and weighs up to 1.33kg per unit. These satellites have revolutionized the space industry due to their low manufacturing and launch costs. CubeSat cameras are made from almost completely off-the-shelf parts and have an innovative lightweight design. They can take a wide range of satellite images, including multispectral and hyperspectral. A CubeSat camera resolution also varies from 3 m GSD to 39 m.
CubeSat cameras have a wide range of applications. They are being used to predict natural disasters by studying the temperature change around volcanoes and by more accurately predicting rainfall. CubeSat cameras are used in agriculture to help farmers assess crops, soil, and yields. And, of course, CubeSat cameras are being used to study space and other planets.
How Do CubeSat Cameras Monitor Magnetic Fields?
CubeSat camera modules have just started being used to monitor the Earth’s magnetosphere. In September 2021, two CubeSats dubbed CuPID (for Cusp Plasma Imaging Detector), and CUTE (for Colorado Ultraviolet Transit Experiment) went up into space alongside the behemoth LandSat 9. The 3 satellites hitched a ride on the Atlas V rocket. As LandSat 9 was the primary passenger, the CubeSats could score a cheap ride and take advantage of the extra fuel.
The CuPID CubeSat camera is studying solar winds caused by the Sun’s energy bursting into the magnetosphere during reconnection. Reconnection occurs when magnetic field lines are split and reconnected, which produces heat and causes particles to come flying along the magnetic field. When the Sun’s burst of energy penetrates the magnetosphere at the time of reconnection, nasty space weather can occur, which can lead to radiation damage to space equipment and compromise satellites and astronauts. The CubeSat camera will determine if the reconnection is occurring continuously in a massive region or in localized regions and only on certain occasions. Researchers are hoping to gain a deep understanding of space weather and how the magnetosphere reconnection process occurs. The CuPID CubeSat has a wide view camera to get a big picture look at the interaction between solar winds and the magnetosphere.
The CUTE CubeSat camera will be focused on other planets’ atmospheres and magnetospheres. The goal of this CubeSat camera is to determine how other planets lost their atmospheres and learn more about the process of evaporation. Scientists want to predict the process of atmosphere degradation that Mars may face. Scientists believe that Mars once had a magnetosphere but now only produces small patches of magnetic fields because its magnetic generation core ceased functioning billions of years ago.
The CUTE CubeSat camera will study exoplanets (planets outside the solar system) known as hot Jupiters. These planets are similar to Jupiter but have short orbital time periods. Large-scale atmospheric loss is very common for these planets. Researchers are hoping that these planets will allow them to understand the mechanisms behind atmospheric loss. The CubeSat camera will measure changes in the atmosphere over time and measure magnesium and iron through UV light.
The Earth’s magnetosphere is key to protecting our planet from radiation. These powerful magnetic fields can deflect plasma emitting from the Sun. Without a magnetosphere, Earth would be uninhabitable. However, solar winds can cause space weather within the magnetosphere which can cripple spacecraft and satellites. CubeSat cameras are playing a key role in understanding how this space weather occurs. Comment below what you think CubeSat cameras will study in space next!