|Yue Deng, UT Arlington assistant professor of physics, has been awarded more than $400,000 in NASA funding to develop a 3D look at how electrodynamic energy from solar winds enters and moves throughout the Earth's upper atmosphere.
Deng aims to help scientists and engineers protect satellites, power distribution systems and other vital infrastructure from the potentially harmful effects of these inevitable bursts of energy.
Understanding interaction between the Earth's magnetic field, or magnetosphere, and its upper atmosphere - known as the thermosphere/ionosphere - is especially important this year and in 2014, Deng said. That's when the Sun is predicted to reach a time of heightened activity or its "solar max."
"Right now, estimation of the amount of energy entering the Earth's thermosphere is not very precise and can be underestimated by 100 percent. We know even less about how that energy is distributed," Deng said. "This information is critical because if you put the same amount of energy at 400 kilometers the impact can be 100 times larger than if you put it at 100 kilometers."
Deng received a $408,000, three-year award from NASA's heliophysics division in January. She is co-developer of a new 3-D Global Ionosphere-Thermosphere Model, or GITM. Deng also is the 2010 recipient of a National Science Foundation Early Career Development or CAREER award.
"Dr. Deng is a young professor who is already making a valuable contribution to her field, and the NASA award recognizes that," said Pamela Jansma, dean of the UT Arlington College of Science. "By helping the physics community better understand the role that space weather phenomenon has on Earth, she is creating a vital new tool."
Co-investigators on the new NASA grant include Arthur Richmond, a senior scientist at the High Altitude Observatory of The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), and Delores Knipp, a visiting professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder.
Solar wind is plasma from the Sun that travels through space at about 400 kilometers per second carrying with it a magnetic field. Usually, the Earth's magnetic field protects it from this plasma radiation. Solar flares and other