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what is Cluster used for?


Cluster is used to study that part of the Earth’s space environment called the magnetosphere. Storms from the Sun can affect our planet and its atmosphere in many different ways. You can find out more about this in the "Space Weather" section of the "Sun-Earth Connection".



Here are the different parts of a Cluster satellite.


The orbits of the Cluster satellites can be changed. Sometimes the satellites are close to the Earth's surface (200 km) and sometimes further away (1000 km). This allows us to use Cluster to study different things about the magnetosphere.


Here is a movie of a beautiful aurora

What are some of the things we’ve learned?
With Cluster we have been able to learn more about how the solar wind and space storms affect the Earth. We know that particles are accelerated in the magnetosphere to very high speeds (1000 km/s), and we want to understand how and why this happens. These particles can cause beautiful and harmless effects like aurorae, but they can also cause serious damage to spacecraft.

You can see more movies in our Gallery   Web movie file not yet available

Why are there four spacecraft?

We need four Cluster spacecraft to have enough information to work out not only the three dimensional shape of the magnetosphere, but also how fast the particles move, in what direction they are moving and whether they are getting faster or slower. This is what Cluster is able to tell us for the first time.


There are 11 instruments on each of the four Cluster satellites, and each instrument has its own specific task to do. Three of the instruments were designed and made in the UK. These measure the Earth's magnetic field and count the particles in the magnetosphere.


Rollover the arrows to see two more instruments:


mouse over arrow FGM  

mouse over arrow DWP  




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