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Archive for August, 2005

24-Aug-05 | Aqua tells the future

NASA and NOAA have announced a “major advancement” in weather forecasting thanks to experimental data provided by the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) instrument aboard Aqua (Delta 291). “They found incorporating AIRS data into numerical weather prediction models improves the accuracy range of experimental six-day Northern Hemisphere weather forecasts by up to six hours, a four percent increase.” While this may not sound like much, the director of the Joint Center for Satellite Data Assimilation (JCSDA) in Camp Springs, Maryland, where the research was conducted, claims this level of improvement “normally takes several years to achieve.” (24-Aug-05 NASA Press Release)

19-Aug-05 | News round-up

All is quiet on the launch front these days, as the first NAVSTAR IIR-M has been delayed indefinitely yet again. This marks the seventh time that this flight has been rescheduled; at least one of these has been due to possible manufacturing errors in the spacecraft.

Meanwhile, NASA missions launched aboard Delta rockets continue to bring in excellent results. The Spitzer Space Telescope (Delta 300) and Swift (Delta 309) have both been observing black holes. Spitzer found twenty-one quasars (super-massive black holes) in a small patch of sky, hidden behind thick clouds of dust; extrapolating outward means that the quasar population is much closer to predictions than the number previously observed in X-ray and visible light. Swift has spotted “newborn black holes, just seconds old, in a confused state of existence.” Rather than a single burst followed by a gradually-receding afterglow as scientists surmised, black hole formation is marked by multiple, powerful “hiccups.” (03-Aug-05 NASA Press Release) (18-Aug-05 NASA Press Release)

Nearly one year after its launch aboard Delta 307, MESSENGER performed a successful Earth swingby on 02 August, passing 1,267 nautical miles above central Mongolia at 19:13 UTC. The world’s first Mercury orbiter will swoop past Venus (twice) and Mercury (thrice) before reaching its final orbital destination in March 2011. (02-Aug-05 NASA Press Release)



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