Atmospheric science is the study of the physics and chemistry of gases, clouds, and aerosols that surround the planetary bodies of the solar system.
Research in atmospheric science focuses upon such areas as:
- Climatology. the study of long-term weather and temperature trends,
- Dynamic meteorology. the study of the motions of the atmosphere,
- Cloud Physics: the formation and evolution of clouds and precipitation,
- Atmospheric chemistry: the study of atmospheric chemical reactions,
- Oceanography: the study of the Earth’s oceans and how they affect the atmosphere.
Geology is the study of the solid earth, its rocks and minerals. Geologists are the ‘field hands’ of earth science: without ground-based observation to confirm or expand on space-based tools, we would have an incomplete or even inaccurate picture of our planet. Geologists understand how the dynamic forces which shape our earth work, and use this knowledge to predict their affect on mankind.
Perhaps the most direct way in which people benefit from earth science research is through the daily weather prediction. Weather systems thousands of miles away have an effect on you. Earth science satellites provide up-to-the-minute information about weather patterns across the entire world, allowing meteorologists to forecast what’s headed your way.
As the name implies, geophysicists merge physics and earth science. Many work to characterize the subsurface by monitoring various forms of energy, particularly the sonic energy released by earthquakes or placed into the Earth by artificial means (explosions or mechanical vibrations). Some use the fluxations imposed by rocks on the Earth’s magnetic field and gravitational pull. Others use satellite technology (GPS, radar, and satellite imagery) to observe the movements of the Earth’s crust or local regions of the Earth’s surface.
Geochemists are interested in characterizing the movement and interactions of atoms and molecules within the Earth and the processes that arise from these interactions. In general, many geochemists are interested in naturally occurring systems characterized by rapid chemical interactions, the bulk of which happen in aqueous systems or high temperatures (deep within the Earth). Geochemists may determine the chemical composition of earth materials and systems and the interaction of synthetic and natural materials, through a host of analytical techniques. They may also use computational modeling or experiments to characterize chemical systems within the Earth or the other planets.
The work involves conducting experimental and theoretical analysis of spacecraft, launch vehicles, and aircraft structures to determine their behavior in atmospheric and space environments, or their interaction with the environment.
Many scientists choose to pursue research and development careers in space science. For example, many pharmacology researchers are investigating ways to develop new medications from substances discovered during space exploration trips.
In addition to the engineers who design space science technology and the scientists who specialize in making sense of what is discovered in outer space, technologists and technicians play an important role in the field of space science. These individuals work closely with the engineers and scientists to build, test, and perfect various types of space technology and innovations.