Date of Award:

12-2018

Document Type:

Thesis

Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)

Department:

Physics

Advisor/Chair:

Ludger Scherliess

Abstract

Knowing what goes on in the upper atmosphere (∼80-140 km) is very important to the space science community. There are several competing forces that influence the temperature and densities of neutral molecules in that region. OPAL (Optical Profiling of the Atmospheric Limb) is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to measure the temperature there using light from oxygen molecules (∼760 nm). To accomplish this,OPAL is built into a CubeSat (a satellite the size of a loaf of bread) to be launched from the International Space Station (ISS) at an altitude of about 400 km. This vantage point is needed to see the light that is absorbed before it makes it to the ground, so a satellite is the optimal choice. Similar to looking at a tennis ball in your hand and trying to see the details of the yellow fuzz fibers on the outer edges of the ball, OPAL is trying to see the light emitted from oxygen at the outer edge of the atmosphere (also called the limb). In order to see how well OPAL can detect space weather signatures affecting the oxygen emissions a suite of models are made to simulate its output. This suite is made of: simulating the flight path of CubeSat, modeling where the OPAL instrument is looking, and how the oxygen light changes with where the instrument is looking. Because we are currently in a solar minimum, the occurrence of solar storms and geomagnetic storms are considered rare events. This allows for the concentrating on detecting gravity waves in this region and the minimum values of detecting them with this developed model.

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