University of Texas at Arlington
physicist Yue Deng will receive more than $500,000 from NASA to study how space
weather events such as solar flares drive vertical winds to affect
electrodynamics in the Earth’s upper atmosphere.
Deng’s work could one
day help operators of near-earth satellites, air traffic radar and electricity
grids know how to best safeguard their systems from bursts of radiation and
energetic particles. The research is funded through NASA’s Living With a Star
initiative, which supports physics to further knowledge about the sun, its
relationship to the Earth and its effect on life and society.
“Almost all the influence of
space weather on our society is affected by dynamics in the upper atmosphere. Neutral
wind in the upper atmosphere is very difficult to model and measure but it is
still one of the most important parameters to consider,” said Deng, an
assistant professor of physics who joined UT Arlington’s College of Science in
Solar winds (plasma) from the
Sun carry an interplanetary magnetic field (IMF) and energy that interacts with
the Earth’s outer magnetic field, or magnetosphere. During times of greater
solar output, like after a coronal mass ejection (CME) or solar flare, spikes
of energy can enter the thermosphere/ionosphere, also known as the upper
atmosphere. If not properly anticipated, the bursts can disrupt energy delivery
systems, communication technology and airline activity.
The new four-year, $534,000
grant builds on a $408,000 NASA grant Deng received in 2013 to further develop
the Global Ionosphere-Thermosphere Model or GITM. GITM is a 3-D look at how electrodynamic
energy from solar winds influences the Earth’s upper atmosphere.
The system is unique because it
is the first to incorporate the non-hydrostatic process in a circulation model for
the upper atmosphere. A hydrostatic environment assumes a balance between
pressure gradient force and gravitational force, which is naturally disturbed
when any energy is input from space environment, Deng said.
The GITM system also is the
first model of its kind to incorporate information about acoustic wave
“Dr. Deng’s continued NASA
support is a strong endorsement of the valuable role she is playing in pushing
past limits in our understanding of the Earth and its atmosphere,” said Pamela
Jansma, dean of the UT Arlington College of Science. “She has forged partnerships with other
institutions that are strengthening UT Arlington’s reputation and benefiting
the scientific community overall.”
Donald Hampton, a research
assistant professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and Jonathan Makela,
an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University
of Illinois, are co-investigators on Deng’s new grant and will contribute
observational information. Observations for the new project will come from
ground based networks called Fabry-Perot interferometers that are based in
Alaska and Brazil, as well as satellites from the U.S.-operated Defense
Meteorology Satellite Program, or DMSP, and the Challenging Minisatellite
Payload, or CHAMP, a German satellite.
Deng’s work with the GITM model
has already been featured in scientific journal articles, including a Journal of Geophysical Research study
published with UT Arlington Physics Professor Ramon E. Lopez in 2013. It was
called: “Theoretical study: Influence of different energy sources on the cusp
neutral density enhancement.” Deng was also the recipient of a 2010 National
Science Foundation Early Career Development, or CAREER, award.
About UT Arlington
University of Texas at Arlington is a comprehensive research institution and
the second largest institution in The University of Texas System. The Chronicle of Higher Education ranked
UT Arlington as the seventh fastest-growing public research university in 2013.
U.S. News & World Report ranks UT Arlington fifth in the nation for
undergraduate diversity. Visit www.uta.edu to learn more and