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Topic: Antarctica

NASA’s Space Communications Networks turns 20

 

Written by Ashley Hume
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD –  NASA’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellites (TDRS) don’t just enable data from spacecraft to reach Earth – they provide internet and even telemedicine to researchers at the South Pole. The South Pole TDRS Relay (SPTR) system turns 20 years old on January 9th, 2018.

In the 1990s, the National Science Foundation (NSF) faced a communications challenge with more than a hundred scientists working at their Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station in Antarctica per year to study everything from meteorology to astrophysics to climate.

The South Pole TDRS Relay (SPTR) ground terminal was installed at the National Science Foundation’s Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station in December 1997 to help connect NSF researchers and their scientific data to the rest of the world. This image shows the original SPTR system, which became operational on Jan. 9, 1998. (NASA)

The South Pole TDRS Relay (SPTR) ground terminal was installed at the National Science Foundation’s Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station in December 1997 to help connect NSF researchers and their scientific data to the rest of the world. This image shows the original SPTR system, which became operational on Jan. 9, 1998. (NASA)

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NASA 2017 Highlights

 

Written by Jen Rae Wang / Allard Beutel
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – The Moon became a key focus point for NASA in 2017, whether it was blocking out the Sun during one of the most-viewed events in U.S. history, or reinvigorating the agency’s human space exploration plans.

One of the numerous NASA-related activities and actions the Trump Administration did in 2017 was to reconstitute the National Space Council. During its first meeting on October 5th, Vice President Mike Pence directed NASA to develop a plan to help extend human exploration across our solar system, and return astronauts to the Moon in preparation for human missions to Mars and other destinations.

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NASA Study finds evidence of Geothermal Heat Source under West Antarctica

 

Written by Carol Rasmussen
NASA’s Earth Science News Team

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – A new NASA study adds evidence that a geothermal heat source called a mantle plume lies deep below Antarctica’s Marie Byrd Land, explaining some of the melting that creates lakes and rivers under the ice sheet.

Although the heat source isn’t a new or increasing threat to the West Antarctic ice sheet, it may help explain why the ice sheet collapsed rapidly in an earlier era of rapid climate change, and why it is so unstable today.

The stability of an ice sheet is closely related to how much water lubricates it from below, allowing glaciers to slide more easily.

Illustration of flowing water under the Antarctic ice sheet. Blue dots indicate lakes, lines show rivers. Marie Byrd Land is part of the bulging "elbow" leading to the Antarctic Peninsula, left center. (NSF/Zina Deretsky)

Illustration of flowing water under the Antarctic ice sheet. Blue dots indicate lakes, lines show rivers. Marie Byrd Land is part of the bulging “elbow” leading to the Antarctic Peninsula, left center. (NSF/Zina Deretsky)

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NASA Study reveals Antarctic Glacier’s Ice Loss May Not Progress as Quickly as Thought

 

Written by Carol Rasmussen
NASA’s Earth Science News Team

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – The melt rate of West Antarctica’s Thwaites Glacier is an important concern, because this glacier alone is currently responsible for about 1 percent of global sea level rise. A new NASA study finds that Thwaites’ ice loss will continue, but not quite as rapidly as previous studies have estimated.

The new study, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, finds that numerical models used in previous studies have overestimated how rapidly ocean water is able to melt the glacier from below, leading them to overestimate the glacier’s total ice loss over the next 50 years by about 7 percent.

Thwaites Glacier. (NASA/James Yungel)

Thwaites Glacier. (NASA/James Yungel)

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NASA’s Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) 3D maps of the atmosphere improve weather forecasts worldwide

 

Written by Carol Rasmussen
NASA’s Earth Science News Team

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Accurate weather forecasts save lives. NASA’s Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) instrument, launched on this date 15 years ago on NASA’s Aqua satellite, significantly increased weather forecasting accuracy within a couple of years by providing extraordinary three-dimensional maps of clouds, air temperature and water vapor throughout the atmosphere’s weather-making layer.

Fifteen years later, AIRS continues to be a valuable asset for forecasters worldwide, sending 7 billion observations streaming into forecasting centers every day.

Besides contributing to better forecasts, AIRS maps greenhouse gases, tracks volcanic emissions and smoke from wildfires, measures noxious compounds like ammonia, and indicates regions that may be heading for a drought. Have you been wondering how the ozone hole over Antarctica is healing? AIRS observes that too.

A visualization of AIRS measurements of water vapor in a storm near Southern California. AIRS' 3D maps of the atmosphere improve weather forecasts worldwide. (NASA)

A visualization of AIRS measurements of water vapor in a storm near Southern California. AIRS’ 3D maps of the atmosphere improve weather forecasts worldwide. (NASA)

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NASA uses Chemical Laptop to detect life in Chile’s excessively dry Atacama Desert

 

Written by Andrew Good
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Few places are as hostile to life as Chile’s Atacama Desert. It’s the driest non-polar desert on Earth, and only the hardiest microbes survive there. Its rocky landscape has lain undisturbed for eons, exposed to extreme temperatures and radiation from the sun.

If you can find life here, you might be able to find it in an even harsher environment — like the surface of Mars. That’s why a team of researchers from NASA and several universities visited the Atacama in February. They spent 10 days testing devices that could one day be used to search for signs of life on other worlds. That group included a team from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, working on a portable chemistry lab called the Chemical Laptop.

Chile's Atacama Desert is the driest non-polar desert on Earth -- and a ready analog for Mars' rugged, arid terrain. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Chile’s Atacama Desert is the driest non-polar desert on Earth — and a ready analog for Mars’ rugged, arid terrain. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA studies Mt. Erebus Ice Caves to prepare for exploration of Icy Worlds in our Solar System

 

Written by Andrew Good
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Mt. Erebus is at the end of our world — and offers a portal to another.

It’s our planet’s southernmost active volcano, reaching 12,448 feet (3,794 meters) above Ross Island in Antarctica. Temperatures at the surface are well below freezing most of the year, but that doesn’t stop visits from scientists: Erebus is also one of the few volcanoes in the world with an exposed lava lake. You can peer over the lip of its main crater and stare straight into it.

It’s also a good stand-in for a frozen alien world, the kind NASA wants to send robots to someday.

Aaron Curtis, a postdoctoral scholar at JPL, surveys frost growing in an ice cave under Mt. Erebus, an active volcano in Antarctica. (Dylan Taylor)

Aaron Curtis, a postdoctoral scholar at JPL, surveys frost growing in an ice cave under Mt. Erebus, an active volcano in Antarctica. (Dylan Taylor)

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NASA’s Global Land Ice Velocity Extraction project provides near real time view of Glacier movement

 

Written by Kate Ramsayer
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – Glaciers and ice sheets move in unique and sometimes surprising patterns, as evidenced by a new capability that uses satellite images to map the speed of flowing ice in Greenland, Antarctica and mountain ranges around the world.

With imagery and data from Landsat 8, a joint mission of NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey, scientists are providing a near-real-time view of every large glacier and ice sheet on Earth.

The NASA-funded Global Land Ice Velocity Extraction project, called GoLIVE, is a collaboration between scientists from the University of Colorado, the University of Alaska, and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

The texture on the surface of flowing ice, such as Heimdal Glacier in southern Greenland, allows Landsat 8 to map nearly all the flowing ice in the world. (NASA/John Sonntag)

The texture on the surface of flowing ice, such as Heimdal Glacier in southern Greenland, allows Landsat 8 to map nearly all the flowing ice in the world. (NASA/John Sonntag)

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NASA’s Space Exploration could discover planets similar to ones in “Star Wars: Rogue One”

 

Written by Arielle Samuelson
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – In the “Star Wars” universe, ice, ocean and desert planets burst from the darkness as your ship drops out of light speed. But these worlds might be more than just science fiction.

Some of the planets discovered around stars in our own galaxy could be very similar to arid Tatooine, watery Scarif and even frozen Hoth, according to NASA scientists.

Stormtroopers in the new Star Wars film "Rogue One" wade through the water of an alien ocean world. NASA scientists believe ocean worlds exist in our own galaxy, along with many other environments. (Disney/Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM.)

Stormtroopers in the new Star Wars film “Rogue One” wade through the water of an alien ocean world. NASA scientists believe ocean worlds exist in our own galaxy, along with many other environments. (Disney/Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM.)

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NASA looks to use Satellite Observations of Earth’s Magnetic Fields to Measure Ocean Heat

 

Written by Kate Ramsayer
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – As Earth warms, much of the extra heat is stored in the planet’s ocean — but monitoring the magnitude of that heat content is a difficult task.

A surprising feature of the tides could help, however. Scientists at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, are developing a new way to use satellite observations of magnetic fields to measure heat stored in the ocean.

NASA scientists are developing a new way to use satellite observations of magnetic fields to measure heat stored in the ocean. (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)

NASA scientists are developing a new way to use satellite observations of magnetic fields to measure heat stored in the ocean. (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)

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