AMPTE


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AMPTE

Abbrev. for active magnetospheric particle tracer explorer. Any of three satellites built by West Germany, the UK, and the USA that were launched from a Thor Delta rocket into different orbits on 9 Aug. 1984 for a series of interactive experiments to study the Earth's magnetosphere. The German and UK satellites were put in highly eccentric orbits into the solar wind while the US craft was in a lower orbit. Lithium and later barium atoms released into the magnetosphere from the German satellite formed positive ions. These were used as tracers in a coordinated effort to study how solar energy, carried by the solar wind, is intercepted and stored in the magnetosphere as charged particles.
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The heavily instrumented Convair 990 jet had been used to study targets from Comet Kohoutek to terrestrial monsoons since the agency acquired it in 1973, and had photographed AMPTE's first artificial comet in December.
One problem for the AMPTE researchers trying to decide whether to go ahead with the barium release was that they could not know in advance about the condition of the interplanetary magnetic field that transports the solar-wind particles that ultimately populate earth's magnetic tail.
"I think," he says of the earth's-tail version, "that nobody has ever seen such a thing," suggesting that AMPTE's data could aid studies of the solar corona and photosphere.