(ORDO NEWS) — Launched in 2018, Aeolus has reached its 36-month design orbital lifetime, but it continues to deliver excellent data. This suggests that the satellite is still alive, which means that the ESA wind mission is expected to continue for another year.
At the Aeolus 3rd Anniversary Conference in Taormina, Sicily, which highlighted the enduring importance of this pioneering wind mission, Aeolus Mission Leader Tommaso Parrinello said: “I believe the best is yet to come and I am pleased to announce that we are extending the lifetime of this remarkable mission. hopefully for another year.”
Named after Aeolus, who was appointed by the gods as the “keeper of the winds” in Greek mythology, Aeolus is a one-of-a-kind satellite that measures the wind from space.
This is one of ESA’s Earth Explorers missions, which use advanced space technology to answer critical questions about Earth’s natural processes and the impact of human activity on them.
Pulses of ultraviolet light emitted by Aeolus’s ALADIN laser towards the Earth reflect off air molecules and particles in the atmosphere.
Two optical analyzers measure the Doppler shift of molecular scattering, “Rayleigh”, and scattering from aerosols and water droplets, “Mievsky”.
By analyzing these Doppler shifts, it is possible to estimate wind speed and direction at various altitudes around the world, making Aeolus the first satellite mission to provide terrestrial wind profiles on a global scale.
Aeolus’ wind data has many applications, from weather forecasting and improving climate models to tracking events in near real time, such as the recent eruption of the Hunga Tonga volcano.
Despite exceeding its original lifespan, meteorological experts at a conference in Taormina noted that Aeolus data is still valuable.
“The effect of observations on the sensitivity of forecasts shows that Aeolus is among the most important satellite missions, which is an impressive result,” said Mike Rennie of the European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF).
Nothing brings us together like weather. To to understand what coat to wear, or to determine climate expectations for tomorrow, it is important to be able to predict it as accurately as possible.”
Mike showed that although the positive impact of data received in 2019 was about twice as large as it is now, Aeolus is still proving useful for numerical weather prediction.
Gemma Halloran of the UK Met Office, where the enhanced Aeolus dataset will start operating in May, agreed, saying: “Almost all weather models have improved since assimilation of data from Aeolus.”
Vivienne Pourret of Météo France also presented data showing Aeolus as one of the best tools for improving weather forecasts, ranking third in terms of improvements per observation. He noted: “The goal is to keep Aeolus data operational for as long as possible.”
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