A nanosatellite to study northern and southern lights

A fascinating phenomenon

With their green or red tones, the northern and southern lights are fascinating. But how do polar auroras appear?

At the start, there is the Sun which, in addition to light, emits particles: this is known as the solar wind.

As they get close to the Earth, these particles, which are charged with electricity, are attracted to the poles, by the Earth's magnetic field. They then plunge into the atmosphere and collide with gases, "stimulating" their atoms.

As these atoms become unstable, they relax and at the same time release a photon, and thus light. This phenomenon is at the root of polar auroras.

The Grenoble University Space Center, with its AMICalSat project, supported by Air Liquide, aims to better understand this phenomenon.

The AMICalSat nanosatellite is the size of a milk carton. It was launched on September 3, 2020 from the Kourou launch pad in French Guiana and will provide a better understanding of how variations in solar activity interact with technological installations.

A fast evolving context

This initiative falls within the context of a space sector undergoing rapid change with the advent of New Space, a term which designates the rise of new players and access to space exploration at competitive costs.

“Beyond the financial aspect, our patronage has also taken the form of providing testing resources and skills. The Air Liquide teams supported the students in defining the mission as well as in the design of the satellite payload. This is a fine example of open innovation that combines scientific and technological expertise with an entrepreneurial spirit” says Benoît Hilbert, VP advanced Technologies at Air Liquide.

Today, AMICalSat takes pictures 500 km above our heads and the story continues!

Credits: Karim Bentroudi (UGA), Getty