Instrument with ties to SCSU on space shuttle

Saturday, November 2, 2002

When Space Shuttle Atlantis flight STS-112 was launched early this fall, it carried an instrument that was the product of five years of research by a team that included a St. Cloud State University faculty member.

The launch was the maiden flight for the Spatial Heterodyne Imager for Mesospheric Radicals (SHIMMER), developed by Dr. John Harlander at SCSU, faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and staff at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) in Washington, D.C. The instrument was designed to investigate the chemical and physical processes in the upper atmosphere of the Earth, particularly the Earth's hydroxyl (OH), ozone and water budgets, each of which have environmental impacts.

Dr. Harlander, a professor in Physics, Astronomy and Engineering Science, worked on development of SHIMMER for the last five years, including four years at SCSU and a recent year-long sabbatical at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory.

SHIMMER is the first orbital space-based scientific instrument utilizing a newly developed interferometric technique, called spatial heterodyne spectroscopy, conceived by Dr. Harlander with Dr. Fred Roesler of UW-Madison. The primary goal of the flight was to assess the performance of SHIMMER in measuring the ultra-violet spectrum emitted by the hydroxyl (OH) molecules in the Earth's middle and upper atmosphere, and to add to the body of global OH observations.

OH plays a critical role in ozone chemistry throughout the atmosphere, and provides an indirect measure of water vapor and temperature over a broad altitude range.

During the Shuttle flight Harlander and other SHIMMER team members were at the Payload Operations Center at Johnson Space Center in Houston to assist the astronauts in the SHIMMER observations.

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