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Last Post 3/19/2018 8:51 AM by  Kris Sigsbee
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3/18/2018 10:07 PM
    How fun are the experiments, because i'm thinking about being a scientist?

    Mitzi Adams

    Basic Member

    Basic Member

    3/19/2018 5:55 AM
    A lot of fun, because we are making discoveries about the way the universe works. But, experiments for astronomers are quite different from those a chemist might make. A chemist has elements in her laboratory here on Earth that she can touch. Astronomers, including solar scientists, have a more difficult problem, since the objects we study are far from Earth. The following is a generalized form of the scientific method that even the chemist would follow; however, we do experiments by making observations of objects we cannot touch. Following the observations, we create an explanation for what we see, which creates predictions for what we might observe next, which means making more observations -- often with larger telescopes. This loop is really a never-ending process, but each time we go through one loop, we learn more about the universe in which we live.

    Kris Sigsbee

    Basic Member

    Basic Member

    3/19/2018 8:51 AM
    Hello! Space scientists use a lot of different methods to study the Sun, Earth's magnetosphere and ionosphere, and other planets. Some methods of gathering data involve making remote observations of things that are far away, which Mitzi mentioned in her answer. Other methods of gathering data involve what scientists call "in situ" measurements. "In situ" is a Latin phrase which means "in its original place."

    When we cannot go someplace to make direct measurements, we use telescopes on Earth or on satellites to make the observations for us remotely. Some examples of of these kinds of measurements are images of the Sun taken using special filters for different wavelengths of light that allow us to see different parts of the Sun's atmosphere. Helioseismology is a method of using observations of waves on the Sun to probe its interior, similar to the way a seismologist uses waves from earthquakes to study Earth's interior.

    We can make direct or in situ measurements of things happening in Earth's magnetosphere and ionosphere, as well as the magnetospheres of other planets, or even the surfaces of other planets. Some of the types of instruments flown on NASA balloons, sounding rockets, and satellites to study Earth's magnetosphere include experiments to measure energetic ions and electrons, experiments to measure electric and magnetic fields, experiments to measure X-rays, and cameras that make images of the aurora. I have helped test electron detectors for a NASA sounding rocket. I have also done tests of a spare radio wave receiver to determine how the behavior of the receiver's amplifiers affected the observations made by a similar radio wave receiver in space. I also modeled the response of the Electron Drift Instrument (EDI) which is currently measuring electrons and electric fields in space on board NASA's Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) Mission.

    Experiments can be super fun, but when things don't work properly they can also be super frustrating. The space sciences are very different from other areas of science because we have to do a lot of testing of our experiments on the ground, before they are launched into space. Once an instrument is in space, we usually cannot get it back to repair it and have to work around any problems that develop. This can be extremely frustrating, but it is also very exciting when you can come up with a solution to work around a problem on a satellite by changing how we operate the instruments or uploading new software to the satellite.

    Many scientists will share data from instruments flying on NASA balloons, sounding rockets, and satellites. Of course, the people who built an instrument get to use the data in their own research, but other people who are not directly involved with building and operating the instruments can also use the data. In fact, NASA requires that we make new data publicly available on the Internet after a certain amount of time, usually within a few weeks.

    While most space scientists use data from satellites, there are some space scientists who do more traditional laboratory experiments. For example, the NASA Ames Vertical Gun Range is a laboratory in California where scientists study crater formation processes and micrometeorite impacts that may affect orbiting spacecraft. I work with scientists who conduct laboratory experiments on plasma waves using the Large Plasma Device (LAPD) at the University of California, Los Angeles, to help us better understand the waves measured by satellites in Earth's magnetosphere.

    Space science experiments are really exciting, and there are so many different kinds of data to analyze!

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