IceSat Makes Height Observations About Earth

IceSat Makes Height Observations About Earth

NASA’s spacecraft IceSat 2 which is regarded as the most powerful Earth observation tools has now started gathering data about the planet as it has ability to measure shape of ice sheets on the ground to a precision of 2 centimeters. The spacecraft is mapping details of land, rivers, lakes, forests and also seafloor depth. According to leader of science team handling the IceSat2 Mission Lori Magruder, they can view 30 meters down of water bodies when water levels are clear and they viewed the ocean floor of Caribbean Sea when the spacecraft went over it.

She spoke at length about its features at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting in Washington. The spacecraft was sent up on 15th September and has just one instrument which is a laser that weighs just over half ton and fires around 10,000 pulses of light per second. Each of these shots goes down to earth and bounces back within 3.3 milliseconds that help to calculate height of the reflecting surface. This unique optical tape measure data will be used by scientists to look into elevation changes in the icy regions of Antarctica and Greenland to check the extent of melting.

The best advantage of this new laser system is that can reveal details of regions that have till date remained out of vision of other satellites. Regions like mountain ranges and valleys between them that have been difficult targets for altimeters in the past would now be visible. Earlier scientists had to depend on radar that would just show a lump for mountains but now with lasers the can see steeply sloping surfaces, valley glaciers and can view every detail of vegetation on them. Besides checking size of ice floes the IceSat 2 has also captured details of forested areas and as it shows the details of both tree canopy and ground underneath it will help scientists to assess the amount of carbon stored in vegetation around earth.

Melissa Weissinger

Working as an Editor and Content Writer for over 3 Years, Melissa has skilled herself to write articles and reports regarding the day-to-day events, breakthrough, inventions, and launch news about the Science field. When not writing, she likes to read books of the fictional, suspense, and inspirational genre. She also loves to explore new places to spend time with friends and family whenever possible or, being a food-lover, try exploring new food places.

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