2020 warmest year on record, hotter years to come: NASA

Agencies
January 15, 2021

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Washington, Jan 15: The US space agency has revealed that the Covid-hit 2020 was also the warmest year on record, just barely exceeding the record set in 2016 by less than a tenth of a degree.

By most accounts, 2020 has been a rough year for the planet.

Massive wildfires scorched Australia, Siberia, and the US west coast -- and many of the fires were still burning during the busiest Atlantic hurricane season on record.

"This year has been a very striking example of what it's like to live under some of the most severe effects of climate change that we've been predicting," said Lesley Ott, a research meteorologist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in the US.

Human-produced greenhouse gas emissions are largely responsible for warming our planet.

"The natural processes Earth has for absorbing carbon dioxide released by human activities - plants and the ocean - just aren't enough to keep up with how much carbon dioxide we're putting into the atmosphere," said Gavin Schmidt, climate scientist and Director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York City.

According to NASA, carbon dioxide levels have increased by nearly 50 per cent since the 'Industrial Revolution' 250 years ago.

The amount of methane in the atmosphere has more than doubled.

As a result, during this period, Earth has warmed by just over 1 degree Celsius.

Climate modellers have predicted that as the planet warms, Earth will experience more severe heat waves and droughts, larger and more extreme wildfires, and longer and more intense hurricane seasons on average.

"The events of 2020 are consistent with what models have predicted: extreme climate events are more likely because of greenhouse gas emissions," NASA said in a statement late on Thursday.

Climate change has led to longer fire seasons, as vegetation dries out earlier and persistent high temperatures allow fires to burn longer.

This year, heat waves and droughts added fuel for the fires, setting the stage for more intense fires in 2020.

This year wasn't a record-breaker for ice loss at sea or on land.

The planet is losing about 13.1 per cent of Arctic sea ice by area each decade, according to sea ice minimum data from NASA and the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado.

The Arctic has lost over half of its summer minimum sea ice extent in the last few decades and the trend is still declining. In 2020, Arctic sea ice covered just 3.36 million square kms at its minimum.

This year brought one of the busiest and most intense Atlantic hurricane seasons on record, with 30 named storms.

The planet is also seeing more slow-travelling hurricanes that stall, bringing prolonged rainfall to an area, likely as a result of climate change.

"The large wildfires, intense hurricanes, and ice loss we saw in 2020 are direct consequences of human-induced climate change. And they're projected to continue and escalate into the next decade -- especially if human-induced greenhouse gas emissions continue at the current rate," said NASA.

"This isn't the new normal," said Schmidt. "This is a precursor of more to come."

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Agencies
March 4,2021

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California, Mar 4: An unmanned SpaceX's Starship prototype on Wednesday exploded on the ground shortly after landing in a test flight, according to a SpaceX video online.

After the flight, flames were seen to come out from the bottom of the Starship rocket Serial Number 10, or SN10, and it exploded minutes after landing. 

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Agencies
February 28,2021

ISRO PSLV-C51 Launch on February 28 With Brazil's Amazonia-1 Satellite on  Board – Review99

Sriharikota, Feb 28: ISRO's PSLV-C51 carrying Amazonia-1 and 18 other satellites lifted off from Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota on Sunday morning.

PSLV-C51 rocket, which is the 53rd mission of PSLV (Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle), launched Amazonia-1 of Brazil as primary satellite and 18 co-passenger satellites from Sriharikota, about 100 kms from Chennai.

PSLV-C51/Amazonia-1 is the first dedicated commercial mission of NewSpace India Limited (NSIL), ISRO's commercial arm. NSIL is undertaking this mission under a commercial arrangement with Seattle, US-based satellite rideshare and mission management provider, Spaceflight Inc. Amazonia-1 is the optical earth observation satellite of National Institute for Space Research (INPE).

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Agencies
February 23,2021

Nasa releases video of Perseverance rover landing on Mars | Mars | The  Guardian

Washington, Feb 23: NASA scientists on Monday unveiled first-of-a-kind home movies of last week's daredevil Mars rover landing, vividly showing its supersonic parachute inflation over the red planet and a rocket-powered hovercraft lowering the science lab on wheels to the surface.

The footage was recorded on Thursday by a series of cameras mounted at different angles of the multi-stage spacecraft as it carried the rover, named Perseverance, through the thin Martian atmosphere to a gentle touchdown inside a vast basin called Jezero Crater.

Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA associate administrator for science, called seeing the footage "the closest you can get to landing on Mars without putting on a pressure suit."

NASA also released the first audio from Mars, a faint wind sound captured by the rover.

The video montage was played for reporters tuning in to a news briefing webcast from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) near Los Angeles four days after the historic landing of the most advanced astrobiology probe ever sent to another world.

You might have seen photos from Mars, but have you seen high-speed video?

🤩 We captured our @NASAPersevere rover’s final minutes of descent and landing in a way never seen before. Take a look: https://t.co/CQQtlWAzNF pic.twitter.com/uR3dtocwLF

— NASA (@NASA) February 23, 2021

NASA also presented a brief audio clip captured by microphones on the rover after its arrival that included the murmur of a light wind gust - the first ever recorded on the fourth planet from the sun.

JPL imaging scientist Justin Maki said NASA's stationary landing craft InSight, which arrived on Mars in 2018 to study its deep interior, previously measured seismic signals on the planet that were "acoustically driven" and then "rendered as audio."

But mission deputy project manager Matt Wallace said he believed the Martian breeze represented the first ambient sound directly recorded on the surface of Mars and played back for humans.

The spacecraft's mics failed to collect useable audio during descent to the crater floor. But they did pick up a mechanical whirring from the rover after its arrival. Wallace said he hoped to record other sounds, such as the rover's wheels crunching over the surface and its robotic arm drilling for samples of Martian rock.

'The stuff of our dreams'

But it was film footage from the spacecraft's perilous, self-guided ride through Martian skies to touchdown - an interval NASA has dubbed "the seven minutes of terror" - that JPL's team found particularly striking.

"These videos, and these images are the stuff of our dreams," Al Chen, head of the descent and landing team, told reporters. JPL Director Mike Watkins said engineers spent much of the weekend "binge-watching" the footage.

The video, filmed in color at 75 frames a second, shows action in fluid, vivid motion from several angles, the first such imagery ever recorded of a spacecraft landing on another planet, Wallace said.

One of the most dramatic moments is of the red-and-white parachute being shot from a canon-like launch device into the sky above the rover as the spacecraft is hurtling toward the ground at nearly two times the speed of sound.

The chute springs upward, unfurls and fully inflates in less than two seconds, with no evidence of tangling within its 2 miles (3.2 km) of tether lines, Chen said.

A downward-pointing camera shows the heat shield falling away and a sweeping vista of the butterscotch-colored Martian terrain, appearing to shift back and forth as the spacecraft sways under the parachute.

Seconds later, an upward-pointed camera captures the rocket-powered "sky-crane" vehicle, newly jettisoned from the parachute, its thrusters firing but the propellant plumes invisible to the human eye while lowering the rover to a safe landing spot on a harness of tethers.

A separate camera shows the lowering of the six-wheeled rover from the vantage point of the sky crane, looking downward as Perseverance dangles from its cable harness just over the surface with streams of dust billowing around it at touchdown. The sky crane is then seen flying up and away from the landing site after the harness cables are cut.

A single still photo of the rover suspended from the sky crane moments before landing was released by NASA on Friday amid much fanfare as a precursor to the video shown on Monday.

The only previous moving footage produced of a spacecraft during a Mars landing was a comparatively crude video shot from beneath the previous rover, Curiosity, during its descent to the planet's surface in 2012. That stop-motion-like sequence was shot at 3.5 frames per second from a single angle that showed the ground gradually getting closer but included no images of the parachute or sky-crane maneuvers.

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