• NASA’s powerful DSCOVR satellite reaches the sweet spot

    NASA’s powerful DSCOVR satellite reaches the sweet spot

    A million miles from home, the DSCOVR satellite sends its first portrait of Earth taken with its onboard EPIC camera system. Providing an image reminiscent of the iconic “Blue Marble” photo taken in 1972 by Apollo astronauts, DSCOVR is NASA’s newest eye on the world and marks the beginning of a new era for space-based observation of climate.

    DSCOVR The Sweet Spot

    Standing for Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) will make its home at that sweet spot between the Earth and the Sun where the gravitational pull of one cancels out the other. Floating at the Legrange point at about a million miles (1.6m kilometers) from home DISCOVR is a geo-stationary satellite in true zero gravity.

    Space Weather

    DSCOVR has two important roles to play. At its back, it monitors solar winds in real time. As well as generating the beautiful aurora borealis, solar winds can affect electronic equipment on Earth when they hit and predicting their impact is of growing concern in an increasingly technological world. DSCOVR will provide realtime coverage of so-called “space weather” and form a critical part of a new early-warning system.

    DSCOVR launch

    Weighing in at just over half a tonne, DSCOVR being prepared for launch. Image credit: NASA. More images from the launch in Feb 2015 on Flickr.

    Climate Science Observatory

    Eyes front, the other job of work for DSCOVR will be to train its geo-stationary camera on the sunny side of Earth at all times. Updating every 2 hours, the EPIC camera combines a range of wavelengths all the way from infra-red to ultra-violet. The deep space observatory will train its eye on Earth to monitor ozone levels, vegetation and Earth’s reflectivity, all of which have benefits to climate science. Images from the four megapixel camera can be filtered to remove the blue haze around the Earth and show a unique perspective on different features on the planet’s surface. Daily photos from DSCOVR will accumulate into a comprehensive picture of long-term effects in the Earth’s climate. Scientists are looking forward to a vast trove of Earth-science data.

    High quality DSCOVR satellite data

    Already scientists are blown away by their preliminary shots. “The high quality of the Epic images exceeded all of our expectations” said one NASA project scientist, “The images clearly show desert sand structures, river systems and cloud patterns. There will be a huge wealth of new data for scientists to explore.”

    DSCOVR was first promoted by former US Veep Al Gore and is nicknamed “Goresat” in some circles. Nevertheless, the stunning update to the Blue Marble image has impressed @POTUS who welcomed it with a tweet.

    DSCOVR was launched in February aboard a private space rocket, the Falcon 9 by Space X. It is a joint effort by NASA, NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) and the USAF.
    Visit the official homepage of DSCOVR
    Read about the origins of DSCOVR on Wikipedia

    Vew a gallery of images on Flickr from the launch and preparations for launch in February 2015

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