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Balloon Mission by NASA May Lead to Improved Weather Forecasting

The waves play major roles in transferring energy from the lower atmosphere to the mesosphere

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The images of a thin group of seasonal electric blue clouds on the cusp of our atmosphere captured by a new NASA balloon mission may lead to improved weather forecasting, the US space agency has said.

Data from these clouds, known as noctilucent clouds or polar mesospheric clouds (PMCs), may help scientists better understand turbulence in the atmosphere, as well as in oceans, lakes and other planetary atmospheres, NASA said in a statement on Thursday.

The NASA long-duration balloon mission observed these clouds over the course of five days at their home in the mesosphere.

Scientists have just begun to analyse the photos captured by the mission, the statement added.

NASA
NASA balloon mission captures electric blue clouds. (IANS)

“From what we’ve seen so far, we expect to have a really spectacular dataset from this mission,” said Dave Fritts, principal investigator of the PMC Turbo mission at Global Atmospheric Technologies and Sciences in Boulder, Colorado.

“Our cameras were likely able to capture some really interesting events that we hope will provide new insights into these complex dynamics,” Fritts added.

NASA’s PMC Turbo mission launched a giant balloon on July 8 to study PMCs at a height of 50 miles above the surface.

For five days, the balloon floated through the stratosphere from its launch at Esrange, Sweden, across the Arctic to Western Nunavut, Canada.

During its flight, cameras on board the balloon captured six million high-resolution images filling up 120 terabytes of data storage — most of which included a variety of PMC displays, revealing the processes leading to turbulence, NASA said.

Noctilucent clouds coalesce as ice crystals on tiny meteor remnants in the upper atmosphere.

NASA
NASA’s PMC Turbo mission launched a giant balloon on July 8 to study PMCs at a height of 50 miles above the surface. Flickr

These clouds are affected by what is known as atmospheric gravity waves — caused by the convecting and uplifting of air masses, such as when air is pushed up by mountain ranges.

The waves play major roles in transferring energy from the lower atmosphere to the mesosphere.

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“This is the first time we’ve been able to visualise the flow of energy from larger gravity waves to smaller flow instabilities and turbulence in the upper atmosphere,” Fritts said.

“At these altitudes you can literally see the gravity waves breaking — like ocean waves on the beach — and cascading to turbulence,” Fritts added. (IANS)

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Another Space Telescope Shuts Down: NASA

Launched by space shuttles in the 1990s, Hubble and Chandra are part of NASA's Great Observatories series.

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Second Space Telescope Shuts Down, NASA Says Pixabay

Another NASA space telescope has shut down and halted science observations.

Less than a week after the Hubble Space Telescope went offline, the Chandra X-ray Observatory did the same thing. NASA said Friday that Chandra automatically went into so-called safe mode Wednesday, possibly because of a gyroscope problem.

Hubble went into hibernation last Friday because of a gyroscope failure.

NASA
This illustration made available by NASA shows the Chandra X-ray Observatory. On Oct. 12, 2018, the space agency said that the telescope automatically went into so-called safe mode on Oct. 10, possibly because of a gyroscope problem. VOA

Both orbiting observatories are old and in well-extended missions: Hubble is 28, while Chandra is 19. Flight controllers are working to resume operations with both.

NASA said it’s coincidental both went “asleep” within a week of one another. An astronomer who works on Chandra, Jonathan McDowell of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, tweeted Friday that “Chandra decided that if Hubble could have a little vacation, it wanted one, too.”

Also Read: Astronomers Capture 15,000 Galaxies Using Hubble Telescope

Launched by space shuttles in the 1990s, Hubble and Chandra are part of NASA’s Great Observatories series. The others are the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory, which was also launched in the 1990s but eventually failed and was destroyed, and the Spitzer Space Telescope, launched in 2003 and still working. Each was intended to observe the cosmos in different wavelengths. (VOA)

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