Illustration of MATS. Source: Swedish National Space Board
Illustration of MATS. Source: Swedish National Space Board

The Swedish National Space Board has decided to finance the new satellite project. The new satellite will examine waves in the mesosphere, the atmospheric altitude ranging between 50 and 100 km. The mesosphere can in many ways be seen as a transition area between the "normal atmosphere" around us and "space" which begins at higher elevations. To understand the atmosphere as a whole, we must learn more about this transitional region and its links both upwards and downwards.

Measures light in the mesosphere

MATS will have optical techniques to observe the light phenomenon specific to the mesosphere, such as noctilucent clouds and airglow. To get a good picture of wave structures in these phenomena, tomography is used, making it possible to reconstruct a three dimensional image by observing the mesosphere from many different directions. In addition, spectroscopy, a way to examine how the measured light looks at different wavelengths. From this it is possible to draw conclusions about everything from the temperature to the amount of ice in the atmosphere.

Filling an important gap

Today, there are many ideas about how waves can affect the atmospheric properties. In many cases, however, knowledge is lacking about how the wave propagation and interaction occurs. To advance, theoretical ideas must be paired with observations. MATS provides this capability by developing a global database, climatology, of wave phenomena in the mesosphere. MATS fills an important gap in the exploration of the atmosphere at these altitudes.

Researchers from Stockholm University

Three groups of researchers from the Department of Meteorology at Stockholm University, Department of Earth and Space Sciences at Chalmers University in Gothenburg and Space and Plasma Physics group at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm are participating in the project.

“MATS is a very exciting project considering both the scientific issues and methods to address them. By combining modern optical methods with a modern satellite platform, we hope to be able to contribute greatly to research on the importance of waves in the atmosphere”, says Jörg Gumbel, a Professor at the Department of Meteorology, Stockholm University.