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UNB researchers reach new heights with NASA observation mission

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“A once-in-a-decade event” is how Jeffery Langille describes the University of New Brunswick’s lead role in a NASA mission.

Langille is the principal instrument scientist for space-based heterodyne observations of water, also known as the SHOW instrument. It is one of three specialized instruments that are part of the High Altitude Aerosol, Water Vapor, and Cloud Instrumentation, or HAWC.

HAWC will be deployed as part of NASA’s Atmosphere Observing System mission.

The Canadian government announced this month that it would commit more than $200 million to the HAWC instrument, a project involving researchers from 13 Canadian universities.

Langille said HAWC will measure the effects of climate change and then use that data to build better models to predict future changes and extreme weather events.

He said it was “absolutely awesome” to be involved with the project.

“Being able to see something that I’ve been working on with my own hands, you know, becoming something that’s launched into space is a really rewarding experience,” Langille said.

SHOW chief instrument scientist Jeffery Langille said it was “absolutely brilliant” to be involved in the project. (Submitted by Jeremy Elder-Jubelin)

The SHOW instrumentation, which Langille is working on, will help researchers understand the interplay between water vapor, clouds and aerosols, he said.

Langille said the challenge is that this interaction is not properly captured by current sensors.

The SHOW instrument will observe water vapor emissions, while the other two instruments that are part of HAWC will observe aerosol and cloud processes.

An opportunity for future space missions for UNB

Since the project is not expected to launch until 2031, Langille said there is a development schedule they will follow over the next few years where they can develop instruments and laboratory facilities as well as train students, post-docs and scientists at UNB.

Langille said this particular project started as a concept in a lab at York University 20 years ago.

William Ward, co-principal investigator of SHOW and a professor in UNB’s physics department, said the SHOW observations will be the highest resolution satellite observations ever obtained for this process.

Ward said Langille was one of his graduate students whom he recommended to do a post-doctorate at the University of Saskatchewan, one of the co-leads of HAWC. So when Ward was approached to be part of the university consortium and Langille returned to UNB, Ward said it was a natural position for him.

William Ward, co-principal investigator of SHOW and a professor in UNB’s physics department, said the SHOW observations will be the highest resolution satellite observations ever obtained for this process. (Submitted by Jeremy Elder-Jubelin)

“Earth observation” is a specific term for observations of the atmosphere at the surface, Ward said, and this is the first time that UNB has taken a lead role in an observation mission. of the earth.

Ward said this opens up the possibility for UNB to participate in more space missions in the future. He said it also allows people at UNB to begin to learn about the process of sending instruments into space.

“I think in the near future, access to space will become more available,” Ward said. “And if we have the tools to be involved in that at UNB, I think it’s a great opportunity to develop that and then potentially for industry partners in the province to get involved as well.”