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WASHINGTON, Jan. 20 /PRNewswire/ -- NASA's Imager for Magnetopause-to-Aurora Global Exploration (IMAGE) satellite recently ceased operations, bringing to a close a successful six-year mission. IMAGE was the premier producer of new discoveries on the structure and dynamics of the Earth's external magnetic field (magnetosphere) and its contents.
"The IMAGE mission showed us space around the Earth is anything but empty,and that plasma clouds can be imaged and tracked just as we do from space for Earth's surface weather," said Barbara Giles , IMAGE Program Scientist at NASA Headquarters.
Prior to IMAGE's launch, the energetic particles and electrically charged gas (plasma) surrounding the Earth were completely invisible to human observers. IMAGE enabled researchers to study the global structure and dynamics of the Earth's inner magnetosphere as it responded to energy from solar winds.
"Nearly six years of imagery by the pioneering cameras on IMAGE revolutionized our understanding of geospace and our knowledge of its spaceweather," said James Burch , IMAGE principal investigator at the Southwest Research Institute, San Antonio .
IMAGE was launched on March 25, 2000 . It successfully completed its two-year primary mission and continued providing data into December 2005 , when it stopped responding to commands from ground controllers. Preliminary analysis indicated IMAGE's power supply subsystems failed, rendering it lifeless. The satellite's minimum orbital altitude is 300 miles above the Earth, and it poses no threat to the planet.