Nasa TWINS Stereoscopic Spectrometers
Surrounding Earth is a dynamic region called the magnetosphere. Five years ago, on June 15, 2008, a new set of instruments began stereoscopic imaging of this mysterious region. Called Two Wide-angle Imaging Neutral-atom Spectrometers or TWINS, these satellites orbit in widely separated planes to provide the first and only stereo view of the ring current. TWINS maps the energetic neutral atoms that shoot away from the ring current when created by ion collisions.
In five years of operation, the TWINS maps have provided three-dimensional images and global characterization of this region. The observatories track how the magnetosphere responds to space weather storms, characterize global information such as temperature and shape of various structures within the magnetosphere, and improve models of the magnetosphere that can be used to simulate a vast array of events.
Since 2008, NASA’s two TWINS spacecraft have been providing a sterescopic view of the ring current -- a hula hoop of charged particles that encircles Earth. (Credit: J. Goldstein/SWRI)
TWINS is an Explorer Mission of Opportunity. Southwest Research Institute leads TWINS with teams of national and international partners. Goddard manages the Explorers Program for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington, D.C.
"TWINS is a stereo mission, providing the first observations of the neutral atoms from two vantage points, but two spacecraft give us another advantage," said Natalia Buzulukova, a magnetospheric scientist at Goddard who works with TWINS data. "Two spacecraft provide continuous coverage of the ring current, as one set of instruments always has a view."
"We get two really unique things with two spacecraft: stereo imaging and continuous coverage. Together the observations we get are fantastic," said David McComas, the principal investigator for TWINS at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas. "It's an incredibly powerful combination of tools."
The TWINS Science Data System (SDS) provides public access for browsing and downloading of TWINS image data. Enhanced online (web-based) dynamic plotting and data filtering capabilities are also available to any member of the community who obtains a TWINS user account. Anyone can contact the TWINS SDS Administrator to obtain a login.
For more information about TWINS science and mission, visit the TWINS mission home page.