2 August 2016
It has been years in the making, but one of the trickiest pieces of space technology ever developed is finally ready to join its satellite for launch by the end of next year. With this milestone, we are another step closer to a better understanding of Earth’s winds.
Carrying pioneering lasers, Aeolus will be the first satellite to probe the wind globally.
These vertical slices through the atmosphere, along with information on aerosols and clouds, will advance our knowledge of atmospheric dynamics and contribute to climate research.
Since Aeolus will deliver measurements almost in real time, it is also set to provide much-needed information to improve weather forecasts.
Its state-of-the-art Aladin instrument, which was designed by Airbus Defence and Space in France, incorporates two powerful lasers, a large telescope and very sensitive receivers.
The laser generates ultraviolet light that is beamed towards Earth. This light bounces off air molecules and small particles such as dust, ice and droplets of water in the atmosphere. The fraction of light that is scattered back towards the satellite is collected by Aladin’s telescope and measured.
Prof. Erland Källén, Director of Research at the European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasts, said, “The Aeolus mission will provide wind observations that are unique with respect to the current global observing system capabilities.