University of Iowa News Release
Nov. 9, 2005
UI's Kletzing Chosen By NASA For Space Weather Study Team
Craig Kletzing, professor and associate chair in the University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Department of Physics and Astronomy, has been chosen by NASA to participate in a eight-year, $1.8 million study of a phenomenon related to space weather.
Called the Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) science mission, the four-spacecraft investigation will be the most sophisticated study of its kind to make 3-D measurements of processes associated with magnetospheric reconnection, a phenomenon that occurs when magnetic field lines from the Earth are connected (or disconnected) from those of the sun. Magnetic reconnection is one of the most important processes involved in transferring energy from the sun to the local space environment around the Earth and results in a variety of space weather events, ranging from "killer electrons" that can damage spacecraft to the northern lights.
Kletzing and his UI colleague Scott Bounds, assistant research scientist, will construct electron optics for the Electron Drift Instrument in collaboration with colleagues from the University of New Hampshire and the Institute for Space Studies in Graz, Austria. Kletzing, who recently received a $423,000 three-year NASA grant to provide instrumentation to study the role that certain waves play in generating the northern lights, says that the MMS mission will enable him to continue his longtime research interests.
Kletzing says, "We're really excited to be a part of this important NASA mission. It's cutting edge science and it's going to keep UI in the space science business for some time to come."
At the sun, magnetic reconnection causes solar flares and other energetic outbursts. Throughout the universe, it is one of the processes that accelerates high-energy cosmic rays.
The overall MMS effort is led by Dr. James Burch of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas and involves a wide range of instruments provided by multiple institutes from the United States and Europe. Other institutions involved in the project include the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory and the Austrian Academy of Sciences. The Goddard
Space Flight Center will manage MMS for the NASA Science Mission Directorate. The science payload and analysis of its data are expected to cost $140 million. Launch of the $700 million mission is scheduled for July 2013.
In 2004, Kletzing received a $475,000, three-year NASA grant to study magnetic reconnection as part of a larger $1.6 million NASA project led by Kletzing. In 2003, he and his colleagues received a $450,000, three-year National Science Foundation (NSF) grant for laboratory studies of Alfven waves occurring in plasmas. Also, in 2003 and 2002 he traveled to Alaska to launch sounding rockets to study the northern lights. The UI rocket launches, in turn, were part of a long line of distinguished University of Iowa investigations into the nature of the northern lights. In 2001, Kletzing and a research team, led by UI researchers Robert Mutel and Donald Gurnett, reported finding a novel way to remotely pinpoint the source of the Earth's most intense, naturally occurring radio noise. They showed that the radio noise, called auroral kilometric radiation (AKR), is being emitted along magnetic field lines about 3,000 miles above bright regions in the Earth's northern lights.
STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.
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