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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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NASA Planning Asteroid Impact Exercise Next Week

NASA’s PDCO and other US agencies and space science institutions, along with international partners, will participate in the exercise

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Part of NASA's study of the effects of long spaceflights on the human body, Koch will spend 328 days in space. Pixabay

Aimed at effective disaster management, NASA and its international partners are planning to participate in an exercise that will play out a realistic — but fictional — scenario of an asteroid on an impact trajectory with Earth.

The scenario begins with the fictional premise that on March 26, astronomers “discovered” a NEO they consider potentially hazardous to Earth.

After a “few months” of tracking, observers predict that this near-Earth object (NEO) – dubbed 2019 PDC – poses a 1 in 100 chance of impact with Earth in 2027 (in real life, the international community has decided that a 1 in 100 chance of impact is the threshold for action).

Participants in this exercise will discuss potential preparations for asteroid reconnaissance and deflection missions and planning for mitigation of a potential impact’s effects, NASA said.

Scientists believe that these exercises can help people in the planetary defence community to understand what those on the disaster management side need to know.

Asteroid
This Nov. 16, 2018, image provide by NASA shows the asteroid Bennu. NASA

“This exercise will help us develop more effective communications with each other and with our governments,” Lindley Johnson, NASA’s Planetary Defence Officer, said in a statement on Wednesday.

Better communication of the hazards posed by NEOs such as asteroids or comets has been a top priority for international groups, such as NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO), the European Space Agency’s Space Situational Awareness-NEO Segment and the International Asteroid Warning Network (IAWN).

Developed by the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Center for NEO Studies (CNEOS), the asteroid impact exercise next week is scheduled to take place at the 2019 Planetary Defense Conference to be held in the US from April 29 to May 3.

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NASA’s PDCO and other US agencies and space science institutions, along with international partners, will participate in the exercise, the US space agency said.

Next week’s exercise events will occur over the five days of the conference, with exercise leaders briefing participants on the status of the scenario at the end of each day and soliciting response ideas and feedback, based on the latest fictional data, NASA said. (IANS)