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NASA joins Norway’s annual oil spill cleanup exercise

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Washington: NASA for the first time, participated in Norway’s annual oil spill cleanup exercise in the North Sea from June 8 to 11.

Scientists flew a specialised NASA airborne instrument, called the Uninhabited Aerial Vehicle Synthetic Aperture Radar (UAVSAR), on NASA’s C-20A piloted research aircraft to monitor a controlled release of oil into the sea, testing the radar’s ability to distinguish between more and less damaging types of oil slicks, NASA said in a statement.

Norway’s Oil on Water exercise has been held annually since the 1980s and in these drills, oil is released onto the ocean and then recovered, giving responders experience with existing cleanup techniques and equipment and a chance to test new technologies.

“This year was special, because we had our own dedicated science experiment in the middle of the training exercise,” said Camilla Brekke, associate professor in the department of physics and technology, at the University of Tromso, Norway.

Brekke invited scientists Cathleen Jones and Ben Holt from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, to participate in the experiment.

Radars “see” an oil spill, because of a characteristic that the Greek philosopher Aristotle first wrote about 2,500 years ago: pouring oil on water smooths the surface.

The Norwegian exercise released emulsions of differing thicknesses, so that the scientists could have a range of conditions to calibrate the UAVSAR data.

The experiment also tested the instrument’s ability to distinguish between petroleum, and plant-based oil, found in algal blooms.

Norway is one of a few nations worldwide that allow oil to be discharged at sea, to test new cleanup technologies and procedures. (IANS)

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NASA’s Kepler Discovers Nearly 100 New Exoplanets

NASA researchers found that some of the signals were caused by multiple star systems or noise from the spacecraft

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Countless galaxies exist in the universe, each hiding secrets that humankind is yet to unearth. Pixabay
  • NASA’s Kepler has discovered nearly 100 new exoplanets
  • Some of the planets discovered are as large as Jupiter
  • NASA has also found planet which orbits very bright stars

An international team of scientists have confirmed the discovery of nearly 100 new exoplanets — planets located outside our solar system.

The discovery was based on data from the second mission of NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope or K2 released in 2014.

NASA has discovered nearly 100 exoplanets. Wikimedia Commons
NASA has discovered nearly 100 exoplanets. Wikimedia Commons

K2 searches for exoplanet transits by registering dips in light caused by the shadow of an exoplanet as it crosses in front of its host star.

NASA researchers found that some of the signals were caused by multiple star systems or noise from the spacecraft.

But they also detected planets that range from sub-Earth-sized to the size of Jupiter and larger.

Also Read: Milky Way’s neighbouring galaxy is of the same size, not bigger

One of the planets detected was orbiting a very bright star.

“We validated a planet on a 10-day orbit around a star called HD 212657, which is now the brightest star found by K2 missions to host a validated planet,” said lead author Andrew Mayo, a doctoral student at the National Space Institute (DTU Space) at the Technical University of Denmark.

Some of the planets found are as big as Jupiter. VOA
Some of the planets found are as big as Jupiter. VOA

For the study, appearing in the Astronomical Journal, the team started out analyzing 275 candidates of which 149 were validated as real exoplanets.

In turn 95 of these planets have proved to be new discoveries, Mayo said.

The Kepler spacecraft was first launched in 2009 to hunt for exoplanets in a single patch of sky, but in 2013 a mechanical failure crippled the telescope.

NASA has found many planets before as well. Wikimedia Commons
NASA has found many planets before as well. Wikimedia Commons

However, astronomers and engineers devised a way to repurpose and save the space telescope by changing its field of view periodically. This solution paved the way for the follow up K2 mission.

Adding the newly discovered exoplanets brings the total number of exoplanets by K2 mission to almost 300, the study said.

Also Read: NASA sounding rocket probing dark regions of space falter

The first planet orbiting a star similar to our own Sun was detected only in 1995. Today some 3,600 exoplanets have been found, ranging from rocky Earth-sized planets to large gas giants like Jupiter. IANS