Classroom Lessons - "Ode to THEMIS"

This colorful patch tells the story of the THEMIS mission. Let’s take a look at the mission from a new angle -- a prose-poem!

When You Look At This Patch, What Do You See?

Look at the five yellow dots--
Are they bright, shining stars? Or five golden spiders hovering in the night?
No, they are five different THEMIS satellites busily collecting information in space.

Look at the blue Earth --
Is that a wreath laid upon it?
Or a glowing green halo?
No, it is the Aurora, known as the Auroral Oval, as it is seen from space.

Look at the big purple violet arcs --
Are they encircling our Earth?
No, the purple rings represent Earth's invisible magnetic field lines, dancing about.

But look at the two smaller purple rings --
Do they represent the invisible magnetic field lines of the moon?
No, the smaller purple rings are also Earth's magnetic field lines. They are dancing in opposite directions and far away from Earth.

And what about that hourglass–shaped space between the two sets of purple arcs?
That's the mysterious “reconnection zone” between the Earth's dancing magnetic fields.

Look at the black background,
Is that the darkest shadow you’ve ever seen?
Or the deepest blackness of space?
Partly correct! This is where the industrious THEMIS satellites will be gathering information late into the night.

Now, look at the big, white letters that read “THEMIS” --
Have you ever seen this name?
Does this refer to the Greek Goddess of Justice, Themis?
That’s one correct answer! Just like Themis, the Goddess of Justice, Wisdom and Good Counsel, the THEMIS mission will seek the truth of the origins of the colorful dancing auroras.

But the THEMIS letters also stand for: Time History of Events and Macroscale Interaction during Substorms (THEMIS). The name comes from the way the five satellites line up to capture the timing of the frenzied dancing lights of auroras as they form.

Look at the flags on the bottom,
Are they the flags of countries with the most medals in the Olympics?
No. They are the flags of countries that are working with this mission.
Can you tell the names of the countries?
From left to right: United States, Austria, Canada, France and Germany.

Look at the letters of NASA --
Do they stand for Nightly Auroras Seem Awesome?
Good idea, but no, it is the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the funding agency of THEMIS Mission.

The scientific description of the THEMIS Patch
The THEMIS (Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions During Substorms) patch represents a satellite mission comprised of five identical micro-satellites. Each is charged with the job of using auroral activity to deduce the causes of the global reconfigurations of the Earth's magnetosphere. THEMIS’ five small satellites, carrying identical suites of electric, magnetic, and particle detectors, will be put in carefully coordinated orbits. The satellite data will be combined with ground-based observations of the aurora from a network of observatories located across the Arctic Circle.

THEMIS science will answer these intriguing Sun-Earth Connection Science questions: How does Earth respond to solar variations? And, how does solar variability affect society? The THEMIS mission is essential for understanding Earth’s space environment and is a key prerequisite to understanding space weather.

For additional information on THEMIS science, please go the About page.