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SpaceX launches NASA-European satellite to monitor rising sea levels – CBS News

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The first of two satellites in a billion-dollar NASA-European project to precisely measure rising sea levels, a major consequence of global warming, streaked into orbit from California Saturday atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

By timing how long it takes cloud-penetrating radar beams to bounce back from the ocean 830 miles below, the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite can track sea levels to an accuracy of less than half an inch to help scientists chart the ongoing effects of global warming over extended periods.

Named after the late director of NASA’s Earth Science Division, “it’s the satellite so nice we built it twice,” said project scientist Josh Willis at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “Five years from now we’ll launch its successor, Sentinel-6B.”

A Falcon 9 rocket climbs away from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, boosting the first of two satellites into orbit to monitor rising sea levels.

NASA


“This is a huge deal for us climate scientists, because it means we get to look at the oceans for a full 10 years in an unbroken record,” he said. “And it’s the first time we’ve been able to build two in a row so that we can launch them back to back and extend the record much farther than we’ve been able to so far.”

The satellite’s Falcon 9 rocket roared to life at 12:17 p.m. ET and shot away from launch complex 4-East at Vandenberg Air Force Base northwest of Los Angeles, climbing to the south toward an orbit tilted 66 degrees to the equator.

It was the California rocket builder’s 22nd Falcon 9 flight so far this year and its 103rd overall including three triple-core Falcon Heavy boosters. It was the first Falcon 9 launch from Vandenber since June 2019.

After powering through the dense lower atmosphere, the first stage fell away, flipped around and flew itself back to a landing near the launch pad to chalk up SpaceX’s 66th successful stage recovery, its fourth in California.

The second stage, meanwhile, carried out two engine firings to put the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite in its required orbit.

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A camera on the Falcon 9’s second stage captures a spectacular view of of the rocket’s first stage falling away as it heads for a landing at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, far below.

SpaceX


The Sentinel-6 satellites will continue a decades-long effort by NASA, the European Space Agency, the European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to monitor sea levels over the past 30 years.

With the launch of Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich and Sentinel-6B, those measurements will be extended into the 2030s. And the data collected so far is alarming to climate researchers.

“You can see the rate of rise is actually increasing,” Willis said. “So in the 90s, sea level was rising at about two millimeters per year. In the 2000s, it was more like three millimeters per year. And now it’s more like four or close to five millimeters per year.”

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The first stage makes a pinpoint landing, chalking up SpaceX’s 66th successful booster recovery, its 21st on land and third at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

SpaceX


More than 90% of the heat trapped by greenhouse goes into warming the world’s oceans.

“So the oceans warm, the water expands, that’s about one third of sea level rise, the rest is from melting glaciers and ice sheets that are reacting to the warming environment,” Willis said. “So these missions really give us our most important yardstick for measuring climate change and how it’s playing out on the planet.”

Along with measuring sea levels around the planet, the new satellite also will monitor temperature and humidity in the lower atmosphere as well as the higher-altitude stratosphere using an instrument that measures atmospheric effects on signals broadcast by navigation satellites.

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An artist’s impression of the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite in orbit.

NASA


But the primary mission is monitoring sea levels across 90 percent of the world’s oceans.

“The dynamic balance that persisted before the industrial revolution has been upset by the almost instantaneous combustion of huge reserves of carbon as our society has developed,” said Craig Donlon, the European Space Agency project scientist.

“We see evidence of this dramatic change in many different measurements … but they all point the same direction: the Earth is warming. And the greatest indicator of this Earth system imbalance is sea level rise.”

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Many Canadians gaining weight during COVID-19: poll – Toronto Star

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OTTAWA – A new poll suggests many Canadians are gaining weight because they’re eating more and exercising less during COVID-19 pandemic.

Nearly one-third of respondents in the survey conducted by Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies said they have put on weight since March, compared to 15 per cent who said they lost weight over that time.

As well, about one-third of respondents said they’re exercising less, while 16 per cent said they’re working out more since the first wave of the pandemic landed in Canada in the spring.

Jack Jedwab, president of the Association for Canadian Studies, suggested that one reason may be a rush for comfort food to deal with pandemic-related anxieties.

Respondents in the survey who said they were “very afraid” of COVID-19 were more likely to report gaining weight, eating more and exercising less.

“The more anxiety you have, the more likely it is that you know you’re eating more,” Jedwab said.

“People who are least anxious about COVID (are) the ones that are not eating more than usual and are not gaining weight.”

The online survey of 1,516 Canadians was conducted Oct. 29-31 and cannot be assigned a margin of error because internet-based polls are not considered random samples.

Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, an associate professor of family medicine at the University of Ottawa, said there are plausible reasons to connect weight gain or loss with the pandemic, but he hadn’t seen any studies to convince him that’s the case.

Some people are “not reliant on restaurants constantly” and “cooking more frequently in their homes,” which Freedhoff said may be leading to weight loss or better dietary choices. Others are eating more, he said, relying on comfort food “because they’re anxious as a consequence of the pandemic, or the tragedies that have gone on in their lives.”

Jedwab said the country needs to also be mindful of mental health issues that can affect the physical health of Canadians.

“With the winter coming, it’ll be even more challenging, in some parts of the country, to maintain a healthy lifestyle in terms of walking, in terms of doing basic things that will help us address our anxieties,” he said, pointing to lack of access for some to gyms subject to local lockdowns.

Some of those exercise classes have gone online. Gabriel Shaw, a kinesiologist from Victoria, B.C. said he has offered virtual classes to give his clients an chance to be physically active.

Shaw said the classes don’t provide people with a sense of community like in-person classes, which he said is important for some people to exercise consistently.

“The best bet for people is to find a way they can enjoy it. That might be going out for a social distance walk or hike or run or bike with a friend,” Shaw said. “That might be finding a Zoom thing that you can get on like dancing or even other activities where you have friends.”

Shaw said people should also try learn a new skill like dancing, yoga, rock climbing, or take up running to keep things fresh and enjoyable, which is key to exercising long and well.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 24, 2020

—— This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

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PH to witness penumbral lunar eclipse Nov. 30 – Manila Bulletin

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PH to witness penumbral lunar eclipse Nov. 30

Get ready to witness the last eclipse that will be visible in the Philippines in 2020.

(FLICKR / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

A penumbral eclipse of the moon will occur on Nov. 30 and will be observed in northwestern Europe, the Americas, Oceania, and most of Asia, including the Philippines, according to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA).

It said the eclipse begins when the moon enters penumbra at 3:32 p.m. and ends at 7:53 p.m. (Philippine Standard Time). The full Moon will enter its maximum penumbral eclipse around 5:30 p.m.

A penumbra refers to a partially shaded outer region of a shadow that an object casts, PAGASA explained. 

A penumbral eclipse occurs when the Moon passes through the faint penumbral portion of the Earth’s shadow, which causes the moon to appear slightly darker than usual.

“The lunar surface is not completely shadowed by the Earth’s umbra (darkest part of a shadow). Instead, observers can see only the slightest dimming near the lunar limb closest to the umbra,” PAGASA said.

“The eclipse may be undetectable unless at least half of the Moon enters the penumbra,” it added.

International astronomers said that about 82 percent of the Moon’s face will turn a shade darker during the maximum phase of this eclipse.

The lunar eclipse is safe to watch and observers need not use any kind of protective filters for the eyes. 

Earlier this year, the Philippines witnessed a penumbral lunar eclipse on June 6 and an annular solar eclipse on June 21. 

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Watch the largest Earth-observing satellite ever launch into space – Inverse

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On Saturday, the journey of the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite began.

The largest Earth-observing satellite took off aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at 12:17 p.m. Eastern from Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

In just a few months, the satellite will begin collecting data on rising sea levels here on Earth, offering scientists a bird’s eye view of one of the hardest to measure affects of climate change.

After it launched into orbit, the satellite separated from the rocket and spread its solar arrays in a truly stunning display.

See the video of the launch here:

Once in the air, Sentinel-6 sent a signal to ground control confirming the spacecraft is in good health and ready to start a series of check-ups and last-minute calibrations. After these are completed, the spacecraft will begin its true mission.

Sentinel-6 is a joint venture by NASA and the European Space Agency, European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

A disturbing trend — The mission’s main objective is to collect data on global sea levels and chart climate change’s effects on the Earth’s oceans. The mission will run for a period of five and a half years.

As global temperatures rise, melting glaciers and ice sheets have combined with the thermal expansion of seawater to increase sea levels at an alarming rate. Since 1880, global mean sea level has risen about 8–9 inches, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“The Earth is changing, and this satellite will help deepen our understanding of how,” Karen St. Germain, director of NASA’s Earth Science Division, said in a statement.

“The changing Earth processes are affecting sea level globally, but the impact on local communities varies widely. International collaboration is critical to both understanding these changes and informing coastal communities around the world.”

Sentinel-6 builds on the legacy of ESA’s Copernicus Sentinel-3 mission. First launched in 2014, it remains the most ambitious Earth observation program to date.

Space agencies have played a crucial role in documenting the effects of changing global temperatures on our planet for years. Sentinel-6 brings an unprecedented level of precision to this effort.

Sentinel-6 will transform our understanding of Earth’s oceans.NASA/JPL-CalTech

A new era — The Copernicus Sentinel-6 mission includes two identical satellites, Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich and Sentinel-6B, which will launch five years apart and supply scientists with data until at least the year 2030.

Unlike previous Earth-observation missions, the Sentinel-6 observatory will collect measurements at a much higher resolution and be able to trace smaller sea-level variations near coastlines.

The way it does this is through a radar altimeter instrument, which calculates the distance between the satellite and Earth by measuring the time it takes for a transmitted radar pulse to reflect Earth’s surface. The returned echo pulse from the sea surface generates a waveform that reveals the height of the sea’s surface and the waves, as well as the surface wind speed from the roughness of the ocean, in real time.

All of these measures support ocean forecasting — crucial to sustainable ocean-resource management, coastal management, and environmental protection, as well as the fishing industry.

“The data from this satellite, which is so critical for climate monitoring and weather forecasting, will be of unprecedented accuracy,” Alain Ratier, director-general for the European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites, said in a statement.

“These data, which can only be obtained by measurements from space, will bring a wide range of benefits to people around the globe, from safer ocean travel to more precise prediction of hurricane paths, from greater understanding of sea level rise to more accurate seasonal weather forecasts, and so much more.”

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