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New Grace mission will weigh Earth's water


Posted on Wednesday, 23 May, 2018 | Comment icon 1 comment

The two satellites were blasted in to orbit on Tuesday. Image Credit: NASA
The launch of two new satellites in to orbit will enable scientists to study the evolution of our planet's climate.
Known as the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-On Mission (Grace-FO), the two satellites were launched from Vandenberg Air Force base aboard a SpaceX rocket on Tuesday.

As they orbit the Earth, their instruments will look for tiny variations in the planet's gravitational pull due to movements in mass. Such readings may be picked up when the land swells due to an extended period of rain, or as polar ice melts and drains in to the ocean due to global warming.

To obtain the readings, the lead spacecraft will drag through the Earth's gravitational field while the second follows 220km behind, measuring changes in their separation to the nearest micron.

"That is about a tenth of the width of a human hair over the distance between Los Angeles and San Diego," said project manager Professor Frank Flechtner.

Monitoring sea-level rise due to climate change will be one of the mission's main objectives.

"Mass loss from the ice sheets is an increasing contribution to total sea-level rise and, even though the poles are remote, this mass loss will have large impacts all around the world," said Prof Helen Fricker.

"With the launch of Grace-FO, we can now continue to detect changes in the ice mass, to determine the extent to which ice is being lost, and find out if there has been any acceleration."

Source: BBC News | Comments (1)

Tags: Grace, Satellite

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by Tom the Photon on 23 May, 2018, 13:58
These are quite remarkable probes with a level of precision that makes the mind boggle.  As the report says they will be able to measure the rate at which land is swelling due to rain or shrinking due to drought.  They can measure changes in the variation of water height across seas and oceans and from this analyse changing winds and currents.  Their data will inform scientists and governments worldwide on water distribution and usage. Take care with the rather misleading headline.  That’s arisen from quote by Michael Watkins, Director of NASA’s JET: ‘GRACE-FO will map Earth's water movements ... [More]




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