Monday, January 23, 2012

Gulfstream jets not just for business

A specially outfitted Gulfstream GIII jet has recently returned to NASA’s Dryden Air Base in Palmdale, Calif., after spending a week in Hawaii, collecting data over the Kilauea volcano on the Big Island.

The plane, which is owned by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, features a radar pod mounted on its underbelly that sends pulses of microwave energy from a sensor on the aircraft to the ground, detecting and measuring very subtle deformations in the Earth’s surface.

The radar collects volcanic data from an altitude of about 41,000 feet. This year’s flyover is the third such in the last two years, the first in January 2010 and the second in May 2011. Those two sets of data successfully imaged the surface deformation caused by the March 2011 fissure eruption in Kilauea.

Flights earlier this month traced the same path as part of future studies of the volcano’s changing deformation patterns.

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