Nasa fire space laser to mea­sure ice lev­els

The Sunday Post (Newcastle) - - NEWS -

Nasa launched a laser into space yes­ter­day to mea­sure the con­di­tion of Earth’s ice cover. The satel­lite mis­sion, called ICESat-2, should pro­vide more pre­cise in­for­ma­tion on how th­ese frozen sur­faces are be­ing af­fected by global warm­ing. Antarc­tica, Green­land and the ice float­ing on the Arc­tic Ocean have all lost vol­ume in re­cent decades. ICESat-2 will track on­go­ing change in un­prece­dented de­tail from its van­tage point 500km above the planet. The satel­lite was taken up by a Delta II rocket, fly­ing out of the Van­denberg Air Force Base in Cal­i­for­nia. Antarc­tica and Green­land lose bil­lions of tonnes of ice ev­ery year, which is slowly but surely push­ing up sea lev­els world­wide. Sea ice in the far north is thought to have lost twothirds of its vol­ume since the 1980s. The laser weighs half a tonne and is one of the largest Earth-ob­ser­va­tion in­stru­ments ever built by Nasa. It uses a pi­o­neer­ing tech­nique called “pho­ton count­ing”. That in­volves fir­ing about 10,000 pulses of light ev­ery sec­ond. Each of those shots goes down to the Earth and bounces back up. In­cred­i­bly, the whole process takes about 3.3 mil­lisec­onds.

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