Resource Data

New GPS data available helps scientists bet

image: The Global Positioning System (GPS) is a constellation of satellites orbiting the Earth about 11,000 miles in space. The GPS satellites in this animation are not drawn to scale. However, their orbits and orientation relative to Earth are approximately correct. GPS satellites are organized into six different orbital paths completely covering the Earth. Looking at Earth up and down from the North Pole, the six orbits are spaced 60 degrees apart. Looking at the Earth from the equator, each orbit is moderately tilted at 50 degrees.
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Credit: NOAA

Los Alamos, New Mexico, October 6, 2021—A new source of data to help scientists better understand the ionosphere and its potential impact on communications and positioning, navigation and synchronization, an essential utility for many critical operations, is now available to the public. The data, which was collected by sensors on GPS satellites in 2018, released todaythrough a collaborative effort of the Los Alamos National Laboratory and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

“Radio signals from satellites or transmitters on the ground can pass through or bounce off the ionosphere, so ionospheric conditions have the potential to disrupt communications based on electron density,” said Erin Lay, scientist in remote sensing in Los Alamos. who was the technical manager of the project. “This new data set will help us better model and predict the behavior of the ionosphere and possibly improve the reliability of our communication and positioning, navigation and synchronization services, which are essential for both daily life. and national security. ”

The ionosphere is the boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and space, stretching from about 40 to over 250 miles above the Earth’s surface. It is composed of a thin atmosphere and charged particles (ions and electrons) which interact with the passing radio waves. The behavior of the ionosphere reacts to weather conditions on Earth, such as thunderstorms, wind and hurricanes, as well as space weather created by solar winds impacting the Earth’s magnetic field.

NOAA Space Weather Forecast Center (SWPC) serves a broad customer base interested in the effects of space weather on communications and GPS-based technologies, ”said Bill Murtagh, program coordinator at SWPC. “We expect that access to these data sets from Los Alamos will improve the development, validation and testing of models used at SWPC to characterize and predict ionospheric disturbances. “

The new data comes from unique measurements of lightning events, each of which produces a flash of radio waves that scatter around the ionosphere before being detected on satellite receivers. Each measured flash provides a snapshot of ionospheric conditions at that instant, and many lightning measurements accumulated over time provide a unique view of ionospheric time. It is the world’s first ionospheric electron density dataset to use a natural source phenomenon.

Prior to this release, the data available to power the ionosphere models came mainly from arrays of ground-based receivers, which are limited because they only monitor fixed locations. According to Lay, “the new data is being gathered from lightning strikes occurring all over the world and will give scientists the opportunity to study the ionosphere in ways previously impossible.”

Disseminating underutilized datasets was an established priority in 2019 National Space Weather Strategy and Plan of Action. Los Alamos processed data from its radio frequency sensors onboard GPS satellites used for monitoring nuclear treaties, then worked with an interagency group, called Space Weather Operations, Research, and Mitigation (SWORM), to facilitate dissemination. public. . NOAA’s National Environmental Information Centers will house data on existing sites that serve land and space meteorological resources.

Link to the data:

On Los Alamos National Laboratory
The Los Alamos National Laboratory, a multidisciplinary research institution engaged in strategic science in the name of national security, is managed by Triad, a public service-oriented national security scientific organization owned equally by its three founding members: Battelle Memorial Institute (Battelle), the Texas A&M University System (TAMUS) and the University of California (UC) regents for the National Nuclear Security Administration of the Department of Energy.

Los Alamos strengthens national security by ensuring the safety and reliability of the US nuclear stockpile, by developing technologies to reduce threats from weapons of mass destruction and by solving problems related to energy, environment, infrastructure, to global health and security concerns.

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