A new satellite with a
"It's able to do what previous systems have not been able to do," said
Measuring the water cycle has become more important in recent years as scientists have observed changing climatic patterns that have left some areas in severe drought. As climate shifts, scientists suspect, the way water moves through the atmosphere could change, too.
"The observatory's data acts as the measuring stick by which partner observations can be combined into a unified data set,"
Efforts have been made for years to monitor rain from space. The earliest weather satellites took pictures of clouds that forecasters used to discern rain probabilities.
The new satellite uses a mix of technologies to take out the guesswork by measuring the moisture content of clouds and determine how much rain, snow and even fine droplets of mist hit the planet.
Clouds, explained Ball project manager
"We pick up all the emissions in the microwave frequency," Figgins explained of the 10-foot-tall device that's aboard the observatory.
The device will probe the planet with a scanner that spins every two seconds. On each rotation, the scanner undergoes four checks to make sure it is pulling in the right information. Using electronic filters, the machine will tune in to the faint microwave emissions reflected by clouds, rain and snow.
All that effort is being made to measure rain because freshwater is relatively rare. While two-thirds of the planet is covered in water, only 2 percent of that is freshwater needed to sustain life.
As the climate patterns shift and the planet's population grows, water supplies are being closely watched and the satellite's global picture could be crucial.
"Understanding the water cycle will help us prepare for drought," Figgins said.
The satellite will launch aboard a
Cook said the venture shows the growing partnership in orbit between
"The collaboration with Japanese is tremendous," Cook said.
And it could also mean good things in the future for
"As we like to point out,
Ball, meanwhile, is hoping the science behind the rain measurement device could see wider use.
Figgins said the
watch the launch
Admission to the Discovery Center will be free from
The center will have a live feed of the launch from
(c)2014 The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.)
Visit The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.) at www.gazette.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services