News That Matters

Tag: Earth&#039s

German satellites sense Earth's lumps and bumps

German satellites sense Earth's lumps and bumps

Science
The German space agency (DLR) has released a spectacular 3D map of Earth. Built from images acquired by two radar satellites, it traces the variations in height across all land surfaces - an area totalling more than 148 million sq km. DLR is making the map free and open, enabling any scientist to download and use it. There will be myriad applications, from forecasting where flood waters flow to planning big infrastructure projects. How was the map made?The two satellites involved are called TerraSAR-X and TanDEM-X. Like all radar spacecraft, they send down microwave pulses to the surface of the planet and then time how long the signals take to bounce back. The shorter ...
ICESat: Space laser to get unprecedented view of Earth's ice

ICESat: Space laser to get unprecedented view of Earth's ice

Science
The American space agency is about to put a laser in orbit 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 some 500km above the planet. A Delta II rocket is booked to take the satellite laser into space on Saturday. Lift-off from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California is scheduled for 05:46 local time (12:46 GMT; 13:46 BST). As the name suggests, ICESat-2 is a follow-on project. The original spacecra...
Earth's earliest animals were strange frond-like sea creatures from the Ediacaran period

Earth's earliest animals were strange frond-like sea creatures from the Ediacaran period

Science
Aug. 20 (UPI) -- New fossil analysis suggests the planet's earliest known animals emerged at least 571 million years ago. The new study -- published this month in the journal Paleontology -- proves members of the Ediacaran biota are indeed animals and were diversifying for several million years before the acceleration of speciation known as the Cambrian explosion. Scientists recovered the first Stromatoveris psygmoglena fossil in the mid-20th century. The frond-like sea creature baffled paleontologists for decades. Stromatoveris psygmoglena hails from the Cambrian period, but dozens of similar blob-like fossil imprints have been found among older strata -- rocks from the Ediacaran period, which lasted from 635 to 542 million years ago. Until now, scientists have struggled to understand t...
Continental growth spurt spurred Earth's first snow, study suggests

Continental growth spurt spurred Earth's first snow, study suggests

Science
May 25 (UPI) -- Scientists believe Earth's first snow fell some 2.4 billion years ago. According to a new study, the flurries arrived as a result of a continental growth spurt. The link between rising coastal elevations and the planet's first snowflakes -- detailed this week in the journal Nature -- was revealed by isotopic analysis of 278 shale samples, collected from all over the world. Shale, formed by the weathering of the planet's crust, is Earth's most abundant sedimentary rock. The chemical composition of shale samples can reveal details about its exposure to air, light and precipitation. "The process of forming shale captures organic products and eventually helps to generate oil," University of Oregon geologist Ilya Bindeman said in a news release. "Shales provide us with a conti...
Grace mission launches to weigh Earth's water

Grace mission launches to weigh Earth's water

Science
A joint US-German mission has gone into orbit to weigh the water on Earth. The Grace satellites are replacing a pair of highly successful spacecraft that stopped working last year. Like their predecessors, the new duo will circle the globe and sense tiny variations in the pull of gravity that result from movements in mass. These could be a signal of the land swelling after prolonged rains, or of ice draining from the poles as they melt in a warming climate. The satellites were launched on Tuesday aboard a SpaceX rocket from the Vandenberg Air Force base in California. It will take a number of weeks to prepare and test the spacecraft before they can start gathering data. Space lasers to track Earth's ice Europe plans Sentinels expansion ...