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Researchers at the University of New Hampshire Space Science Center find that "speed bumps" in space, which can slow down satellites orbiting closer to Earth, are more complex than originally thought.
"We knew these satellites were hitting "speed bumps", or "upswellings", which cause them to slow down and drop in altitude," said Marc Lessard, a physicist at UNH. "But on this mission we were able to unlock some of the mystery around why this happens by discovering that the bumps are much more complicated and structured."
Study - AGU - Geophysical - Research - Letters
In the study, published in AGU's journal Geophysical Research Letters, scientists outline their observations during the Rocket Experiment for Neutral Upwelling 2 (RENU2) mission finding that a type of high-altitude auroras, or northern lights, are responsible, at least in part, for moving pockets of air high into the atmosphere where they can cause drag on passing satellites, similar to driving a car into a strong headwind. These auroras, viewed from the Kjell Henrickson Observatory in Norway, were not the typical bright ribbons of light seen in the night skies in Earth's high latitudes. Known as Poleward Moving Auroral Forms (PMAF), these auroras were less energetic, dim and distant.
Scientists had long suspected that the aurora may be instigating...
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