VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, CALIF. —
A U.S.-European satellite designed to extend a decades-long measurement of global sea surface heights was launched into Earth orbit from California on Saturday.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the satellite blasted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base at 9:17 a.m. and arced southward over the Pacific Ocean. The Falcon’s first stage flew back to the launch site and landed for reuse.
The Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite was released from the second stage about an hour later. It then deployed its solar panels and made first contact with controllers.
Named for a former NASA official who had a key role in developing space-based oceanography, the satellite’s main instrument is an extremely accurate radar altimeter that will bounce energy off the sea surface as it sweeps over Earth’s oceans. An identical twin, Sentinel-6B, will be launched in 2025 to ensure continuity of the record.
Space-based sea level measurements have been uninterrupted since the 1992 launch of the U.S.-French satellite TOPEX-Poseidon, which was followed by a series of satellites including the current Jason-3.
Sea surface heights are affected by heating and cooling of water, allowing scientist to use the altimeter data to detect such weather-influencing conditions as the warm El Nino and the cool La Nina.
The measurements are also important for understanding overall sea level rise due to global warming that scientists warn is a risk to the world’s coastlines and billions of people.
“Our Earth is a system of intricately connected dynamics between land, ocean, ice, atmosphere and also of course our human communities, and that system is changing,” Karen St. Germain, NASA’s Earth Science Division director, said in a pre-launch briefing Friday.
“Because 70% of the Earth’s surface is ocean, the oceans play an enormous role in how the whole system changes,” she said.
The new satellite is expected to have unprecedented accuracy.
“This is an extremely important parameter for climate monitoring,” Josef Aschbacher, the European Space Agency’s director of Earth observation, told The Associated Press this week.
“We know that sea level is rising,” Aschbacher said. The big question is, by how much, how quickly.
Other instruments on board will measure how radio signals pass through the atmosphere, providing data on atmospheric temperature and humidity that can help improve global weather forecasts.
Europe and the United States are sharing the $1.1 billion (900 million euro) cost of the mission, which includes the twin satellite.
Associated Press journalist Frank Jordans contributed to this report from Berlin.
NOAA scientists discover new species of gelatinous animal near Puerto Rico – CTV News
Scientists have discovered a new species of ctenophore, or comb jelly, near Puerto Rico.
The newly named Duobrachium sparksae was discovered two and a half miles below sea level by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries research team. It was found during an underwater expedition using a remotely operated vehicle in 2015 and filmed by a high-definition camera.
NOAA Fisheries scientists Mike Ford and Allen Collins spotted the ctenophore and recognized it as a new species. This is the first time NOAA scientists have identified a new species using only high-definition video, according to NOAA.
“The cameras on the Deep Discoverer robot are able to get high-resolution images and measure structures less than a millimeter. We don’t have the same microscopes as we would in a lab, but the video can give us enough information to understand the morphology in detail, such as the location of their reproductive parts and other aspects,” Collins said.
The scientists also said there was another unique quality to the discovery. During the expedition, they were not able to gather any samples, so the video evidence is all they have.
“Naming of organisms is guided by international code, but some changes have allowed descriptions of new species based on video — certainly when species are rare and when collection is impossible,” Ford said. “When we made these observations, we were 4,000 metres down, using a remote vehicle, and we did not have the capabilities to take a sample.”
There are between 100 and 150 species of comb jellies, and despite their name, they are not related to jellyfish at all, according to the NOAA. The species is carnivorous, and many are highly efficient predators that eat small arthropods and many kinds of larvae.
The researchers said that there did not initially get a long look at the animal, so there is still a lot about this new species that they do not know yet. Their findings were recently published in the journal Plankton and Benthos Research.
“We’re not sure of their role in the ecosystem yet,” Ford said.
“We can consider that it serves similar roles to other ctenophores near the ocean floor and it also has some similarities to other ctenophores in open ocean areas,” he said.
The videos are now part of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History Collection and publicly accessible.
You might want to stay up late: lunar eclipse to coincide with November’s Beaver full moon early Monday morning – Toronto Star
A special celestial event is set to grace Toronto skies early Monday morning.
The November full moon, which is traditionally called the Beaver moon, will coincide with a penumbral lunar eclipse.
This kind of eclipse event happens when the moon crosses Earth’s outer shadow, or penumbra, giving it a reddish brown hue.
Those in Toronto will be able to observe the phenomenon starting 2:29 a.m. ET. The eclipse will be at its peak at 4:42 a.m. ET.
Environment Canada predicts partly cloudy skies at that time, but stargazing enthusiasts may be able to get a glimpse of the moon.
Although the Canadian Space Agency notes lunar eclipses are usually among the most observable because you can see them — quite safely — with the naked eye, with the more subtle penumbral eclipse they recommend using binoculars or a small telescope for the best viewing experience.
Fourth and last lunar eclipse of 2020 to occur on Monday – Geo News
The fourth and last lunar eclipse of 2020, a penumbral eclipse, will occur on November 30 (Monday).
According to Prof Dr Javed Iqbal, of the Institute of Space and Planetary Astrophysics (ISPA), University of Karachi, the eclipse will take place at 12:32pm according to Pakistan Standard Time.
The lunar eclipse will be seen in South and North America, Australia and Asian countries and will not be seen anywhere in Pakistan.
It will reach its peak at 2:42pm, Dr Iqbal said, adding that the shadow of the eclipse will be removed from the moon at 4:53pm.
The total duration of the eclipse will last 4 hours and 21 minutes, Dr Iqbal said.
The last three lunar eclipses occurred on January 10, June 5, and July 4.
A penumbral eclipse occurs when the Earth blocks some of the sun’s light from directly reaching the moon’s surface. All or part of the moon is covered with the outer part of its shadow, also known as the penumbra.
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