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

An aurora (the "Northern Lights") photographed by Jan Curtis, who works at the University of Alaska's Geophysical Institute.

I obtained a Ph.D. Degree in 1988 with my thesis topic (naturally a little more complex-sounding!) being: "High Latitude Mesospheric Temperatures and Dynamics obtained from OH (6-2) and O2 (0-1) Airglow Emissions." Now that may sound rather esoteric, but it led me to some very interesting work experiences.

Work History

From 1988 to 1996 I worked at the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory in Boston, MA. I studied the interaction between spacecraft and the space environment. Most of my work involved designing experiments for the Space Shuttle. I would then train the astronauts on how to do my experiments. While they were up in space, I would work at Johnson Space Center in Houston or at Goddard Space Center near Washington, DC.
An extreme ultraviolet image of the Sun, seen by the SOHO spacecraft.

On one experiment, I collected data from the top of the island of Maui where the Air Force has a very sophisticated telescope and tracking system. During my eight years at the Air Force Research Lab, I supported 12 Shuttle missions.

From 1996 up to the present, I've been at NOAA's Space Environment Center in Boulder CO. Now I am studying how the Sun affects the earth. I study the solar Ultraviolet (UV) and x-ray radiation that reaches Earth and how it affects the upper atmosphere. I am working on an Extreme Ultraviolet (EUV) Solar Instrument that will fly on the GOES satellites (Ed. note: NOAA's main weather satellites, whose images you see on the TV newscasts) some time in 2004. Solar EUV radiation has a huge effect on the upper atmosphere. This in turn affects spacecraft, radio communication, and even power companies.

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