Solar System Chatter

One Instrument Tags Out

Aqua, launched in 2002, led the formation of the A-train of Earth Observing System. It was built with six instruments to study our planet’s water cycle. One of those instruments, the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer-EOS, was supplied by the Japanese space agency JAXA to make highly detailed measurements of ocean ice, soil moisture, and surface temperatures for weather predictions and to study climate change. (At right, an image from AMSR-E showing sea temperatures during Hurricane Katrina in 2005.) The instrument, however, needs to rotate 40 times a minute to make observations, and that function has been slowly deteriorating over the last few years. It slowed to two rotations a minute by 2012, and on December 4, it stopped completely. Hundreds of research papers have been published with data from its 13 years in operation. JAXA launched the instrument’s successor, AMSR2, on board the SHIZUKU satellite in 2012.

Heather Goss is the Departments Editor at Air & Space.

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