NASA Launches ‘NACHOS’ Prototype to Help Predict Volcanic Eruptions

by Michael Freeman
nasa-launches-nachos-prototype-help-predict-volcanic-eruptions

Though a lot of recent talk with organizations like NASA has been concerning space, NASA devised a prototype instrument that could see extensive use here on Earth. Dubbed “NACHOS,” it could help us predict future volcanic eruptions.

Officially breaking the news on their official website, NASA first revealed the instrument on February 19. If it succeeds, it will be the smallest, highest resolution space-based instrument capable of predicting volcanic eruptions. At a mere 13 pounds and 18 cubic inches, the Nanosat Atmospheric Chemistry Hyperspectral Observation System (NACHOS) is hardly the size of a football. Furthermore, it will be able to monitor air quality around specific cities, neighborhoods, and power plants.

NACHOS will perch itself aboard a CubeSat roughly 300 miles above Earth’s surface. CubeSats are a type of nanosatellite which are lightweight and usually function as auxiliary payloads on missions. While there, it will use a compact hyperspectral imager to locate sources of trace gases. It can detect said gases like sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxide in areas as tiny as .15 square miles.

Steve Love, a researcher and task lead with the Space and Remote Sensing Group at the Department of Energy’s Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) spoke about its significance. “A dormant volcano just waking up may emit SO2 before there is any detectable seismic activity. That gives us a chance to identify a potentially erupting volcano before it actually blows,” Love said. “When we recognize that these gases are present and can localize their sources on a sub-kilometer scale, we have the opportunity to take action and minimize negative health outcomes.”

NACHOS will remain aboard the Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus spacecraft until May 2022. At that time, NACHOS will enter into low-Earth orbit.

NASA Provides New Update Regarding Ability to Redirect Asteroids

In November last year, NASA discussed its Double-Asteroid Redirection Test or DART mission. In theory, it gives us the power to prevent an asteroid from impacting Earth by redirecting it somewhere else. Yesterday, the organization provided an update about the mission.

Taking to Instagram with the news, NASA provided new details about their latest endeavor. Overall, the test takes place millions of miles away from Earth and involves two asteroids orbiting one another. Additionally, NASA intends to use the smaller of the two asteroids to gauge how well we can redirect them, should the need arise.

“Our Double Asteroid Redirection Test lifted off last fall, destined for the 530-foot-wide (160-meter) “moonlet” Dimorphos,” the caption reads. “#DARTMission will collide with Dimorphos, very slightly adjusting its trajectory around the much larger asteroid Didymos. Neither Dimorphos or Didymos pose any potential threat to Earth—but studying exactly how Dimorphos’s orbit changes will help us to design larger, more powerful spacecraft that could nudge any future threatening asteroids far out of Earth’s way.”

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