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Latest Newsletter - Issue 11

Mapping water – in space!

If you follow what’s happening with space, satellites and science you will probably have read about the Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity (Smos) spacecraft – destined to map the variation in the wetness of the land and of the quantity of salts dissolved in sea water. These are key parameters that can tell scientists how water is cycling around the planet - from the surface to the atmosphere and back again. These variables have never been measured globally and that's why they have to be done from space.

Smos will see these changes and put more precise numbers on the variations which will over time assist scientists as they seek to make better weather forecasts and understand key features of the climate system.

The European Space Agency (ESA) satellite works by measuring the natural emission of microwaves coming up off the planet's surface and variations in the wetness of the soil or the saltiness of the ocean which will modify this signal.

This technology is new and Spanish engineers have spent 14 years, at a cost of 70m euros, turning a concept into a practical space-borne instrument to study the Earth rather than the stars.

To find out more about the technology and how Smos was launched into space visit: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/8332418.stm

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