Using lasers to measure changes in the earth’s ice

On Sept. 15, NASA launched the $1 billion icesat-2 satellite from vandenberg air force base in California, which will use a specially designed laser device to provide scientists with data on exactly where and how fast the ice is melting after it enters orbit 310 miles (499 kilometers) above earth.

Weighing 341 pounds, icesat-2 is a long-awaited replacement for the original ICESat satellite, which ended its single-laser mission in 2009. It is equipped with ATLAS (advanced terrain laser pointer altimeter system) and emits 3 photons. It takes three milliseconds to get to earth and back. Icesat-2 will use six green laser beams to scan the earth’s surface, measuring glaciers and floating sea ice.

By measuring ice thickness and mass accurately, NASA scientists will have a more accurate picture of the effects of climate change, researchers say.

In addition, icesat-2 can measure the heights of forests, jungles and other terrains as it orbits the earth from pole to pole. The data will be used to estimate how much carbon there is in temperate regions of the earth and how much is being lost over time.

ICESat – 2. The satellite will send 10,000 laser pulses a second to earth, capturing the returning beam through a 31-inch-wide beryllium telescope and sending it to an electronic signal detector to calculate the distance to earth. The six laser beams form a six-kilometer-wide band that measures everything in the region.