|THEMIS Launched Aboard a Delta II Rocket|
Spacecraft: THEMIS Aurora Observing Satellites|
Launch Vehicle: Boeing Delta II Rocket
Launch Location: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida
Launch Pad: Space Launch Complex 17
Launch Date: Feb. 17, 2007
Launch Time: 6:01 p.m. EST
THEMIS was thundered into orbit aboard a Delta II rocket. The Delta II is designed to boost medium-sized satellites and robotic explorers into space. NASA selected a model 7925-10 for this mission, which is a three-stage rocket equipped with nine strap-on motors and a protective 10-foot payload fairing.
Image to right: A Delta II launches the THEMIS spacecraft. Image credit: NASA/KSC
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THEMIS is a mission to investigate what causes auroras in the Earth's atmosphere to dramatically change from slowly shimmering waves of light to wildly shifting streaks of color. The process that triggers substorms occurs deep within the Earth's magnetosphere, the region of space surrounding the Earth that is dominated by the Earth's magnetic field. At substorm orbit, stretched magnetic field lines snap back to a configuration similar to that of a bar magnet, energizing charged particles and dumping them into the Earth's upper atmosphere, where they produce shimmering aurora that can be seen at high latitudes in both the northern and southern hemisphere. Discovering what causes auroras to change will provide scientists with important details on how the magnetosphere works and the important Sun-Earth connection.