R o d n e y  V i e r e c k
Leader of the Data and Instrumentation Group
Research Division NOAA Space Environment Center

What sort of things did I do in my job today?

I am a scientist and I study how the Sun affects the earth. My main topic is solar ultraviolet and X-ray radiation. I examine how this radiation affects the upper atmosphere and ionosphere. I spend a lot of my time looking at data from satellites. I compare the changes in the radiation coming from the Sun to changes in the density and temperature of the upper atmosphere and ionosphere.
Some of the dishes on top of NOAA's SEC (also known as the "World Warning Center"), Boulder, CO

I work with a group of scientists and computer programmers to collect information from several different satellites. Our lab has large dish antennas on its roof that track satellites more than 57,000 km away. These dishes are 6 meters across so that they can pick up the signal from the satellites. We have to make sure the signal keeps coming in from the satellite and that the information in that signal continues to go through the computers and onto the computer disks. Once the data is stored, it can be looked at by scientists to see if the Sun or the space environment are changing.

Our lab also has a group of "space weather" forecasters who look at the same data from the satellites. They watch the sun (NOT, of course, with their naked eyes!) and try to predict what will happen at Earth when a large solar flare occurs. When we have a large solar event, like a flare or a coronal mass ejection, the forecasters send alerts and warnings to people who operate satellites and electric power stations.


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