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NASA releases its latest Global maps of Earth at Night, provides clearest patterns of Human Settlement across the Planet

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Earth. Pixabay

Washington, April 13, 2017: NASA has released its latest global maps of Earth at night, providing the “clearest yet composite” view of the patterns of human settlement across our planet.

Satellite images of Earth at night — often referred to as “night lights” — have been a tool for fundamental research for nearly 25 years.

They have provided a broad, beautiful picture, showing how humans have shaped the planet and lit up the darkness.

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By studying Earth at night, researchers can investigate how cities expand, monitor light intensity to estimate energy use and economic activity, and aid in disaster response.

These maps are generally produced every decade or so. But NASA’s new global map of Earth at night, as observed in 2016, has been released this week just five years after the such map was released in 2012.

A research team led by Earth scientist Miguel Roman of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, plans to find out this year what would happen if night lights imagery could be updated yearly, monthly or even daily.

In the years since the 2011 launch of the NASA-National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (NPP) satellite, Roman and colleagues have been analysing night lights data and developing new software and algorithms to make night lights imagery clearer, more accurate and readily available.

They are now on the verge of providing daily, high-definition views of Earth at night, and are targeting the release of such data to the science community later this year, NASA said. (IANS)

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NASA Selects Missions to Study Sun, its Effects on Space Weather

One of the selected missions will study how the Sun drives particles and energy into the solar system

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NASA, Missions, Sun
The launch date for the two missions is no later than August 2022, the US space agency said in a statement on Friday. Pixabay

NASA has selected two new missions to study the Sun and its dynamic effects on space weather.

The launch date for the two missions is no later than August 2022, the US space agency said in a statement on Friday.

One of the selected missions will study how the Sun drives particles and energy into the solar system and a second will study the Earth’s response.

“These missions will do big science, but they’re also special because they come in small packages, which means that we can launch them together and get more research for the price of a single launch,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA headquarters in Washington.

NASA, Missions, Sun
NASA has selected two new missions to study the Sun and its dynamic effects on space weather. Pixabay

The Sun generates a vast outpouring of solar particles known as the solar wind, which can create a dynamic system of radiation in space called space weather.

Near Earth, where such particles interact with our planet’s magnetic field, the space weather system can lead to profound impact on human interests, such as astronauts’ safety, radio communications, GPS signals and utility grids on the ground.

The more we understand what drives space weather and its interaction with the Earth and lunar systems, the more we can mitigate its effects – including safeguarding astronauts and technology crucial to NASA’s Artemis programme to the Moon.

One of the two missions that NASA has selected is the Polarimeter to Unify the Corona and Heliosphere, or PUNCH. This mission will focus directly on the Sun’s outer atmosphere, the corona, and how it generates the solar wind.

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The second mission is Tandem Reconnection and Cusp Electrodynamics Reconnaissance Satellites, or TRACERS. The TRACERS investigation was partially selected as a NASA-launched rideshare mission, meaning it will be launched as a secondary payload with PUNCH.

TRACERS will observe particles and fields at the Earth’s northern magnetic cusp region – the region encircling the Earth’s pole, where our planet’s magnetic field lines curve down towards the Earth, NASA said. (IANS)