Commander Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command Clippings June 1-20, 2012FURTHER REPRODUCTION OR DISTRIBUTION IS SUBJECT TO ORIGINAL COPYRIGHTRESTRICTIONS. USE OF THESE NEWS ITEMS DOES NOT REFLECT OFFICIAL ENDORSEMENT.Top Stories1. June 1- America’s Navy-Navy Supercomputer Center at Stennis to Greatly Increase ComputingCapability-Page 22. June 6-Office of Naval Research- Navy researchers seek to improve weather prediction forglobal operations-Page 3U.S. Naval Observatory3. June 2-ClickOnDetroit-Look for this heavenly highlight on Tuesday-Page 54. June 3-AZDailySun.com-Venus ready to take center stage-Page 65. June 5-FoxNewsLatino-Venus: Mexican Share Transit with Ancient Mayans-Page 76. June 5-Scientific American-Venus’ Transits through History-Page 97. June 6-AZDailySun.com- View of a lifetime: Flag residents watch Venus transit-Page 128. June 8-Otago Daily Times-Astronomical Interest in Transit-Page 14Personnel9. June 17-Miss. Business Journal-Brown to lead Stennis-Page 14
Items of Interest10. June 1-NOAA-NOAA Administrator Dr. Lubchenco names new Deputy Under Secretary forOperations-Page 1511. June 9-The Economist-20,000 colleagues under the sea-Page 1512. June 20-CNET- How Navy supercomputers help sailors beat an ancient nemesis-Page 1713. June 20-DVIDS-Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific hosts NATO exercise-Page19To subscribe to CNMOC Clippings contact Kelly.LeGuillon@navy.mil1. Navy Supercomputer Center at Stennis to Greatly Increase Computing CapabilityBy Christine CuicchiSTENNIS SPACE CENTER, Miss. (NNS) -- One of the Defense Departments most powerfulsupercomputer centers, located at Stennis Space Center, Miss., will more than triple its computingpower this summer when it adds three new supercomputers.The additions to the Navy Department of Defense Supercomputing Resource Center (Navy DSRC)will be operational by the fall."This upgrade will put South Mississippis supercomputing capabilities back in the top 100 of theworld," Dr. Bill Burnett, deputy/technical director of the Stennis-based Naval Meteorology andOceanography Command, said of the upgrade.Navy DSRC is one of five Defense Department supercomputer centers that Navy, Army and AirForce scientists and researchers use to design new aircraft, ships, and military equipment; to modeland simulate weather and ocean conditions; and for a wide range of other DoD mission-relatedscience and engineering research. The Navy DSRC is a part of the Department of Defense HighPerformance Computing Modernization Program (HPCMP).The new supercomputers, all IBM iDataPlex Linux clusters, will give the center a capacity of nearly800 trillion floating point operations (teraflops) per second or the capability to conduct 800 trillionarithmetic calculations per second. One hundred high school students with handheld calculatorswould take nearly 317 years to perform the number of calculations a teraflop-rated computer canaccomplish in one second - almost 250,000 years to perform what the new Navy DSRC computerswill be capable of every second.The additions will allow the center to retire its existing IBM Power5+ system, an IBM Power6system, and a Cray XT5 system at the end of the year.In a nod to the Navy DSRCs location at Stennis Space Center, the systems will be named after
astronauts who have served in the Navy: Fred Haise, a retired U.S. Air Force officer who alsoserved as a Navy and Marine Corps aviator and the Apollo 13 pilot; Cmdr. Susan Still Kilrain, anaval aviator who piloted two shuttle missions and more than 30 different aircraft; and Capt.Eugene Cernan, a naval aviator and the last person to set foot on the moon."We are especially excited to honor former naval aviators who have served as astronauts, startingwith South Mississippis own Fred Haise," Burnett said. Haise is a native of Biloxi, Miss.High performance computing or supercomputing allows DoD to make the most of its dollars spenton research, development, test, and evaluation."These supercomputers enable the DoD science and research community to test and modeldefense systems that cannot be modeled in the real world due to time, financial, physical, or safetyconstraints, and in some cases, they can accomplish this work in a matter of hours as opposed tothe days, weeks, or even months that traditional research methods can require," said Tom Dunn,director of the supercomputing center.Within the HPCMP, the Navy DSRC is unique in providing supercomputing resources available 24/7to the Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command (NMOC). These high performancecomputing resources are used by the Naval Oceanographic Office (NAVOCEANO) and the FleetNumerical Meteorology and Oceanography Center (FNMOC) for ocean and weather forecasts insupport of U.S. Navy fleet operations.Two of the iDataPlex systems will be identical, each consisting of 18,816 Sandy Bridge Intelprocessor cores, 37 terabytes of memory and 2.3 pedabytes of disk storage space available forcomputational modeling and research. A third iDataPlex system will have 4,032 of the sameprocessor cores, eight terabytes of memory and 576 terabytes of disk storage. The peakcomputational capabilities of the two larger systems will be 351 teraflops each, and the third systemwill be capable of 75 teraflops.The HPCMP provides DoD supercomputing capabilities, high-speed network communications andcomputational science expertise that enable DoD scientists and engineers to conduct a wide-rangeof focused research, development and test activities. The partnership puts advanced technology inthe hands of U.S. forces more quickly, less expensively and with greater certainty of success.Today, the HPCMP provides a complete advanced computing environment for DoD that includesunique expertise in software development and system design, powerful high performancecomputing systems, and a premier wide-area research network. The HPCMP is managed on behalfof DoD by the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center.2. Navy researchers seek to improve weather prediction for global operationsONR-developed weather models and tools aid Navy forecasters and meteorologists around theworldARLINGTON, Va.—With the Atlantic hurricane season officially beginning this month, the Office ofNaval Research (ONR) is pursuing a number of projects to help Navy forecasters andmeteorologists around the world predict storms better."Weather is one of the most significant factors affecting naval operations at sea," said Chief ofNaval Research Rear Adm. Matthew Klunder. "ONR-funded research in weather prediction is
improving the Navys forecasting capability and accuracy for any location around the world whereour Sailors and Marines are conducting missions."ONRs efforts in funding ocean research are yielding enhanced weather and ocean predictionmodels—highlighted in a new video—that help Navy leaders understand how to route ships aroundthe globe to avoid storms, reduce fuel consumption, avoid Arctic ice flows and promote safety atsea.At the Fleet Weather Center in Norfolk, Va., Navy meteorologists depend on ONR-developedweather models and tools to provide timely, comprehensive and tactically-relevant products andservices to support Fleet training and operations. "We use real-time sensing data, observationsfrom ships and combine that with modeling outputs to try and get as far ahead of the bad weatheras possible," said Commander Adam Newton, Operations Officer. "This information improves safetyat sea and can give the Fleet a real warfighting advantage."While the Navy forecasters focus on supporting Fleet operations around the world, ONR oftenpartners with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) because the same dataand weather models that Navy forecasters use also help NOAA to provide accurate weatherprediction and storm warnings across the country."There is a concerted effort to link various atmospheric and oceanic models together to attain moreaccurate weather forecasts," said Dan Eleuterio, an ONR program officer. Eleuterio is working on anew computer model called the Tropical Cyclone Coupled Ocean/Atmospheric MesoscalePrediction System, or TC-COAMPS, which allows scientists to forecast storms track and strength inreal time at high resolution. It was the first dynamic model to demonstrate better skill than statisticalapproaches at NOAAs National Hurricane Center, and is one of several Navy and NOAA modelsbeing evaluated by the National Weather Services Hurricane Forecast Improvement Program."Up until now, predicting the intensity of storms was done with statistical-dynamical models," saidEleuterio. "What that means is that forecasters would look at several decades of observed data andthey would simply say that if a storm is in this place this season, it is most likely going to getstronger or weaker or change. It wasnt an actual prediction, and TC-COAMPS will change that as anext-generation weather prediction model."ONR researchers work with underwater autonomous vehicles, ocean gliders and other sensors tocollect information about how much the ocean environment drives global weather patterns. Thatdata helps scientists improve mathematical equations for computer models that predict weather,ocean, sea, and even Arctic ice conditions.The Navy has a long history of conducting missions in the Arctic for research and military purposes,and in 2009 published the Navy Arctic Roadmap to help ensure naval readiness and capability andpromote maritime security in the Arctic region. Developed by the Navys Task Force ClimateChange, the plan includes increasing operational experience, promoting cooperative partnershipsand improving environmental understanding."The Arctic ice flows are retreating, and that has strategic implications for our country and navaloperations in that region of the world as sea lanes open for shipping," said Rear Adm. David Titley,director of the Navys Task Force Climate Change. "ONR research is helping us understand theArctic environment, which helps us predict conditions and design future Navy ships better suited forthat tough mission."
Tracking the sea ice cover is the responsibility of the National Ice Center (NIC), a multi-agencyorganization operated by the Navy, NOAA and the United States Coast Guard in Suitland, Md."Weather modeling is really key to better understanding and forecasting of changing ice conditionsin the Arctic," said Pablo Clemente-Colón, NICs chief scientist.In the future, ONR researchers hope to combine multiple weather prediction models to create acomprehensive coupled global model that will greatly extend prediction capability, accuracy and ourunderstanding of the worlds environment.3. Look for this heavenly highlight on TuesdayBy Paul GrossDETROIT - On Tuesday afternoon, June 5th, everyone in the United States will have a chance towitness one of the rarest celestial phenomena known: a “transit of Venus."Such an event occurs when the planet Venus passes almost exactly between the Earth and theSun, and they are incredibly rare. The United States Naval Observatory provides the followingfascinating historical story about Venus transits.Since first predicted by the German mathematician and astronomer Johannes Kepler in the 17thcentury, only six transits of Venus have been observed. Weather permitting, this will be the seventh.Transits of Venus occur at regular intervals that repeat over a 243-year period. Intervals betweensuccessive transits are 8 years, 105.5 years, 8 years, and 120.5 years. The next transit of Venuswon’t occur until December 11, 2117, and it will not be visible from most of the U.S.Kepler predicted the transit of December 7, 1631, but died before the event occurred. The nexttransit, on December 4, 1639, was observed by only two individuals, Jeremiah Horrocks andWilliam Crabtree, from England.In 1677 Edmond Halley (of comet fame) observed a transit of Mercury from St. Helena Island andrealized that such events, if observed from many widely-spaced sites, could provide a geometricmeasure of the scale of the solar system. His work led to several far-flung expeditions to observethe Venus transits of June 6, 1761 and June 3, 1769. One of the British expeditions to the lattertransit was led by Captain James Cook. Results from these expeditions were mixed, but enoughexperience was gained to attempt observations of the next series in the 19th century.The transits of December 9, 1874, and December 6, 1882, were met with an armada of scientificexpeditions equipped with state-of-the-art astronomical instruments. The U.S. Congress funded andoutfitted eight separate expeditions for each event and placed overall scientific direction of theseteams under the command of the U.S. Naval Observatory (USNO). Once again the results wereinconclusive, but many of the instruments from these expeditions are still in the observatory’spossession.The 20th century saw no transits of Venus; the next one occurred on June 8, 2004. By this time thesize of the solar system had been well-established, so observing the transit became more of anhistorical event than a scientific one.
This year’s transit will begin about three hours before sunset here in Detroit, at 6:04 p.m. EasternDaylight Time. It will occur earlier in the day and at a higher altitude as one moves farther west, butno place in the “lower 48” will see the event in its entirety. Residents of Alaska, Hawai’i, and theU.S. Pacific Territories are the only Americans who will see the complete event.Observing the transit will not require a telescope; the disc of Venus is large enough to be seen withthe unaided eye. However, just as with a solar eclipse, extreme precaution must be taken whenobserving the event, or permanent eye damage and/or blindness will occur. You can try to see thetransit using the same pinhole projection method used with solar eclipses: punch a small hole withsmooth edges in one piece of paper, stand with the sun at your back and project the sunlightthrough the hole onto the second piece of paper. You can "focus" the projection of the sun bymoving the pieces of paper closer or farther away. What will you see? Venus transiting the sun willlook like a "dot" slowly passing across the solar disk.You can also observe the transit with some of the local science centers, planetariums, or amateurastronomy clubs, as they will have the proper equipment to enjoy this rare event (check ahead tomake sure they are having transit observing parties). Or, better yet, several organizations will belive streaming the transit.4. Venus ready to take center stageFlagstaff isnt done with rare astronomical phenomena this year just yet.On Tuesday, Venus will pass in front of the sun from Earths point of view in whats known as atransit -- like a mini eclipse or a black spot passing across the suns surface. The event wonthappen again until 2117.Of course people shouldnt look at the sun without appropriate equipment, but thankfully, localastronomers are making their telescopes and expertise available to the public. Lowell Observatoryalso has some 2,000 solar glasses available for sale at their visitors center.The U.S. Naval Observatory in Flagstaff has restored a historic brass telescope that astronomersused to view the 1874 and 1882 transits in China and South Africa. That telescope and others willbe open for the public to look through at the Naval Observatorys facility just west of town.The telescope provides incredible views of the sun even when compared to modern telescopescommonly used for such public viewing. Through the eyepiece and with the help of a special filter,sun-gazers will be able to see not just Venus, but sunspots and solar prominences extending off thesuns surface.Lowell will be hosting a public viewing as well.Now mostly a heavenly spectacle, transits were once critical to refining our knowledge of the solarsystem.Only two planets, Mercury and Venus, can transit the sun because they are the only two betweenus and our home star. Mercury transits are more common, happening about 13 times each century.Venus transits come in pairs only about every hundred years. The last one happened in 2004.
In the 19th century, astronomers didnt have a good understanding of the distance from the Earth tothe sun, which is known as one astronomical unit. Also unclear was the distance between Venusand Earth.Venus transit could reveal both distances, and using well-established mathematical laws, map outthe scale of the entire solar system.Naval astronomers took a number of large brass refracting telescopes made by Alvan Clark, forwhom Lowells Clark telescope is named, and set out for the far reaches of the world.They compared transit measurements made from various locations across our planets surface tocalculate the distance to both the sun and Venus.One of the brass telescopes was used for a long time as a finder telescope attached to a muchlarger telescope built in Flagstaff in the 1930s.Its history was never forgotten though. And a couple months ago, USNO staff thought it would becool to restore it to watch the transit.It was thought that seven such telescopes were used at the time. Two are at the NavalObservatorys site -- one is still covered in paint -- and one is at the Smithsonian in Washington,D.C.A small group of astronomers took the finder telescope apart and cleaned it, as well as the lenses,and then polished the instrument and gave it a fresh coating. They didnt know if it would work untilthey put it all back together."Its really amazing the art the Clark brothers took optical telescopes to back in the 1870s," saidNaval Observatory Flagstaff Station Director Paul Shankland. "It really is a beautiful piece of glassto look through.""I couldnt see a better way to celebrate this than opening it up to the public," he added.Using modern techniques, we now know that the Earth is about 93 million miles away from the sunand Venus is about 67 million miles away from the sun.That doesnt mean transits arent still useful to astronomers.During the last transit of Mercury, astronomers used the event to calculate the diameter of the sunwith extreme accuracy.5. Venus: Mexican Share Transit with Ancient MayansThe transit of Venus across the sun today is something that Mexicans can share with their ancientancestors: the Mayans.The Mayans were famed for their precise and methodical observation of the stars. They are knownto closely have followed the movement of Venus, and possibly the planet’s rare visits across thesun.
For today’s astronomers, Venus passing in front of the sun is not just a rare planetary spectacle —it wont be seen for another 105 years. Its also one of those events they hope will spark curiosityabout the universe.Sul Ah Chim, a researcher at the Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute in the central SouthKorean city of Daejon, said he hoped people see life from a larger perspective, and "not get caughtup in their small, everyday problems.""When you think about it from the context of the universe, 105 years is a very short period of timeand the Earth is only a small, pale blue spot," he said.As astronomers use the latest technology to document the transit of Venus, stargazers gatheringacross the world should only look at the celestial event with a properly filtered telescope, a strongwelding visor or cardboard eclipse glasses.In terms of rarity, to be here at a time when its happening, you almost have to look at it...It aintgoing to happen again in my lifetime. - Geoff Chester of the U.S. Naval ObservatoryIf viewed directly, permanent eye damage could result.Extremely hot Venus is one of Earths two neighbors and is so close in size to our planet thatscientists at times call them near-twins. During the transit, it will appear as a beauty mark movingacross the face of the sun."In terms of rarity, to be here at a time when its happening, you almost have to look at it," saidGeoff Chester of the U.S. Naval Observatory. "It aint going to happen again in my lifetime."The transit is happening during a 6-hour, 40-minute span starting just after 6 p.m. EDT in the UnitedStates. What you can see and for how long depends on what the suns doing in your region duringthat exact window, and the weather.Those in most areas of North and Central America will see the start of the transit until the sun sets,while those in western Asia, the eastern half of Africa and most of Europe will catch the transits endonce the sun comes up.Hawaii, Alaska, eastern Australian and eastern Asia including Japan, North and South Korea andeastern China will get the whole show since the entire transit will happen during daylight in thoseregions.In Hawaii, university astronomers planned viewings at Waikiki Beach, Pearl Harbor and Ko Olina. AtWaikiki, officials planned to show webcasts as seen from telescopes from volcanoes Mauna Kea onthe Big Island and Haleakala on Maui.NASA planned a watch party at its Goddard Visitor Center in Maryland with solar telescopes,"Hubble-quality" images from its Solar Dynamics Observatory Mission and expert commentary andpresentations.Amateur astronomers from the University of North Texas planned to watch from points in Alaskaand Hawaii to recreate the 1769 expedition of British Capt. James Cook to Tahiti, part of an effort touse the transit to measure the solar system.
They will use atomic clocks, GPS and high-end telescopes to take measurements, and will usehigh-end video gear to capture time-lapse video.Experts from Hong Kongs Space Museum and local astronomical groups were organizing aviewing Wednesday outside the museums building on the Kowloon waterfront overlooking thesouthern Chinese citys famed Victoria Harbor.The transit begins there around 6 a.m. local time.In South Korea, the transit coincides with a national holiday.Choi Hyungbin, head of the Daejon Observatory, said he was expecting more visitors than mightotherwise come out to watch the transit. Local media urged residents to visit observatories,reiterating the danger of looking directly at the sun.This will be the seventh transit visible since German astronomer Johannes Kepler first predicted thephenomenon in the 17th century. Because of the shape and speed of Venus orbit around the sunand its relationship to Earths annual trip, transits occur in pairs separated by more than a century.Its nowhere near as dramatic and awe-inspiring as a total solar eclipse, which sweeps a shadowacross the Earth, but there will be six more of those this decade.6. Venus’ Transits through HistoryIn a matter of hours, lucky observers with clear skies will be able to watch Venus pass in front of theSun. Transits of Venus are rare – this is the last one until 2117 – but that’s not the only reason youshould find a way to watch it. This astronomical event is historically very significant. Since the 17thcentury astronomers have used Venus transits to better understand the Universe and our placewithin in, and the upcoming transit doesn’t break this centuries-old tradition.The Transit of VenusBefore exploring the role of Venus transits in history, it’s worth taking a couple of steps back. It’sworth looking at the geometry of our Solar System to understand why this event is so rare.Horrocks observing the 1639 Venus Transit. Published in the US before 1923 and public domain inthe US.Venus takes about 225 days to make one full orbit around the Sun while the Earth takes about 365days. The two planets line up roughly once every year and a half; Venus lies directly between theEarth and the Sun. But we don’t see a transit every time because Venus’ orbit is tilted by aboutthree degrees compared to Earth’s. From our perspective, we see Venus passing near the Sun onthese occasions but not crossing it. Transits occur when the Earth and Venus line up at the sameinclination of their orbits. That’s when we see the planet as a small dot crossing the Sun, and it’s amuch rarer occurrence. Venus transits come in pairs eight years apart, but pairs come less thanonce per century. The repeating pattern between transits is eight years, 105.5 years, eight years,and 120.5 years.
But astronomers didn’t always know the transit schedule. In fact, they didn’t know nearly as muchabout planetary orbits as we know now. Getting a sense of where astronomy was as a sciencebefore transits became a valuable tool for astronomers is also worthwhile before getting into thestory of transits in history.Where We StoodIllustration of the Venus transit from James Fergusons 1811 Astronomy, Explained Upon Sir IsaacNewtons Principles. Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight CenterUntil 1543, we were the centre of the Universe. Aristotelean and Ptolemaic models of cosmos hadthe Moon, Mercury, Venus, the Sun, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn orbiting around the Earth against thebackground of fixed stars. But astronomers observed odd behaviour like planets occasionallydoubling back on their orbits that couldn’t be explained in this geocentric model. Polish astronomerNicolaus Copernicus proposed an elegant, and controversial, solution. He decentered the Earth andposited that all planets, including the Earth, orbit the Sun. In this model, the odd planetary motionsastronomers saw could be chalked up to their orbiting viewpoint. Copernicus published his modelthe year of his death, 1543, in his De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the Revolutions of theCelestial Spheres). Though he didn’t see it, he changed the cosmic world view to one with aheliocentric system.George Forbes, "The Transit of Venus", London and New York, 1874. Credit: Adler PlanetariumOnlineGerman astronomer Johannes Kepler built on Copernicus’ heliocentric model. Copernicus hadretained the ancient idea that planets orbit the sun in perfect circles, but again the observationswere inconsistent with the model. Kepler found that the planets actually trace elliptical orbits aroundthe Sun, a theory he proved by using his model to accurately predict the November 7, 1631 transitof Mercury. In 1627, he also predicted the 1631 transit of Venus.The 1631 Venus transit wasn’t visible in Europe, and Kepler, who died in 1630, failed to thistransit’s pair. He predicted a Venus transit in 1761 and a near transit in 1639. He was wrong, andEnglish astronomer Jeremiah Horrocks found the error and used Kepler’s adjusted calculation topredict the 1639 event. At around quarter past three on the afternoon of December 4 that year, hebecame one of the first men in history to observe a Venus transit. He projected the sun onto a pieceof paper through a telescope. His friend William Crabtree also watched the event. Horrocks usedhis observations to guess at Venus’ size and compared data with Crabtree to estimate the distancebetween the Earth and the Sun.From the Earth to the SunA photograph of the 1882 transit. Credit: The US Naval Oceanography PortalThe actual distance between the Earth and the Sun eluded astronomers in the 17th century. By the1660s, the Copernican heliocentric model was widely accepted and the planets’ relative orbits werewell known. The missing piece was a number. Everything was quantified by the valuelessAstronomical Unit (AU) where 1 AU is the average distance from the Sun to the Earth. Venus wasknown to orbit on average 0.7 AU from the Sun, but that wasn’t the precise value astronomerswanted. If they could determine the value for 1 AU, they could figure out the size of every planet’s
orbit and the picture of the solar system, at least as it was understood at the time, would becomplete.Edmund Halley of Halley’s Comet fame was the first astronomer to come up with a way of using thetransit of Venus to find the value for 1 AU. If two astronomers observed the transit from two farapart locations on Earth, they could use the difference in transit time and their known distance fromeach other to calculate the distance between the Earth and Venus. Then, applying Kepler’s thirdlaw about the shape of planetary orbits – the square of the orbital period of a planet is directlyproportional to the cube of the semi-major axis of its orbit – they could determine the value of 1 AU.French astronomer Joseph-Nicolas Delisle improved on Halley’s method. He stipulated that if thetwo observers knew their exact positions on Earth, they would only need to record the momentwhen the edge of Venus lined up with the edge of the Sun. This would be enough to calculate thevalue of 1 AU.Measuring the Solar System with TransitsHalley died in 1742, 19 years before he could try his method on the 1761 transit. But a host ofastronomers took up the challenge in his stead. European expeditions set out to India, the EastIndies, Siberia, Norway, Newfoundland, and Madagascar to get the best and most spaced outviews of the event. From the whole worldwide network, more than 120 transit observations wererecorded, but most were of poor quality stemming from optical problems and inexperiencedobservers. For the 1769 transit, more than 150 observations were recorded from Canada, Norway,California, Russia, and famously Tahiti as part of Captain James Cook’s first expedition. But theresults were only marginally better.The state of technology in the 17th century made it impossible to record the exact moments of thestart and end of the transit because of the so-called black drop effect. As Venus crossing in front ofthe Sun, a haze obscured the planet making it impossible for astronomers to make clearobservations. But even poor results are results. In 1771, French astronomer Jérôme Lalandecombined the observations from the 1761 and 1769 transits and calculated that 1 AU was 95 millionmiles (153 kilometers) give or take a half million or so miles. It was a start, but it wasn’t the precisevalue astronomers had hoped for.Over a century later, a new generation of astronomers sought to use the 1874 and 1882 pair ofVenus transits to refine the value of 1 AU. This time around, reigning astronomical superpowersFrance and England weren’t the only nations mounting expeditions for the event. Austria, Belgium,Brazil, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Mexico, the Netherlands, Portugal, Russia, and the United Statesall joined in the international effort, though it was far from the organized enterprise we see ininternational cooperatives today.A new technology was also on hand for this set of 19th century transits: photography. Mostastronomers felt their photographic recording wasn’t good enough to provide accuratemeasurements. Only the American astronomers felt the 200 photographs they took during the 1874transit were promising enough to try again in 1882.The 1882 transit was visible in the United States, and the U.S. Naval Observatory produced nearly1,400 photographs. Though a striking record, these and other images gathered from other sitesaround the world did little to perfect the standing value of 1 AU. American astronomer WilliamHarkness studied the 1874 and 1882 photographs and came up with a value of 92,797,000 miles
(149,342,295) give or take 59,700 miles for 1 AU. This was better, but it still wasn’t accurateenough. The black drop effect remained; perfect Earth-based observations can never be free fromthe distorting effects of the atmosphere.New Technologies, New GoalsVenus begin its transit as seen by NASAs TRACE satellite on June 8, 2004. Credit: NASA/TRACESpace age technology made short work of the quest to find the value of 1 AU. Radio telemetry fromspace probes and radar measurements have yielded the value of 92,955,807.273 miles(149,597,870.700 kilometres), give or take about 100 feet. But just because this one big questionhas been answered doesn’t mean the 2004 and 2012 transits have to break the tradition ofastronomers using the event to further our understanding of the Universe around us. Thisgeneration just has a very different goal in mind. Instead of measuring our Solar System, this pair oftransits is helping astronomers measure the atmospheres of exoplanets.2004 was the first transit since quantitative astronomical spectroscopy was invented, andastronomers took the opportunity to make detailed spectroscopic measurements of Venus’ upperatmosphere. Spectroscopy, which came onto the astronomical scene in the first half of the 20thcentury, allows astronomers to determine the chemical composition of a planet’s atmosphere. Assunlight passed through Venus’ atmosphere, the gases absorbed light at certain knownwavelengths. The light that reached Earth had an absorption spectrum that astronomers read tofind exactly what makes up the planet’s atmosphere.Learning more about Venus wasn’t the only reason to decipher its atmosphere in 2004. Takingspectroscopic measurements was a practice run for applying the same method to determining theatmospheric composition of exoplanets – planets that orbit stars other than the Sun. Astronomersare using this 2012 transit to test another method of studying exoplanets.Hubble will use its advanced Camera for Surveys, Wide Field Camera 3, and Space TelescopeImaging Spectrograph to view the transit in a range of wavelengths and perform spectroscopicanalysis. But because its cameras are too sensitive to point directly at the Sun, Hubble will measurethe light passing through Venus’ atmosphere as it reflects off the Moon. If Hubble can get anaccurate reading of Venus this way, it will be another tool in astronomers’ arsenal for determiningthe atmospheric composition of exoplanets. If there’s an Earth out there, this could be the way tofind it.Over the course of astronomy’s history, Venus transits have shaped and given size to our SolarSystem. Now, transits are helping us understand our place in the Universe relative not only to otherplanets and stars but to other possible worlds and life forms. As you watch a small dot cross in frontof a circle later, try to keep in mind the significance of and rich history behind this seemingly tinyevent.7. View of a lifetime: Flag residents watch Venus transitFlagstaff residents once again showed their love of astronomy on Tuesday as people came out indroves to catch a glimpse of Venus as it passed in front of the sun.The next Venus transit wont happen again until 2117.
Lowell Observatory filled to capacity within 30 minutes of the transit starting, and traffic was divertedat the bottom of Mars Hill.At the U.S. Naval Observatory Flagstaff station, the roads were lined with cars, and the parking lotwas also completely full."I wanted to see this once in my lifetime," said Flagstaff resident Cindy May after looking through asmall telescope at the Naval Observatory.She added that Venus tiny black spot was a reminder of just how small the planet was compared tothe suns massive orb."We forget the whole world is moving around us," she said.At the Naval Observatory, children and adults waited patiently in short lines to peek throughtelescopes with solar filters.The observatory was also giving out free solar glasses so people could see the tiny dot directly as itmoved across the uppermost part of the suns disk.The excitement was obvious as each eyeball met the eyepiece and the viewer witnessed loopingsolar flares strung along the edge of the solar disk, as well as strings of sunspots and Venus itself.Many said they had gone out to watch the recent solar eclipse as well.It wasnt just the novice astronomers excited, either. Both Lowell Observatory and the NavalObservatory made their staff available to help show people the sun."I love doing research," said Naval Observatory astronomer Bob Zavala, "but I rarely just get tolook. Its like recess."The telescope highest in demand was a large brass telescope that Naval Observatory staff hadrestored just for the occasion.The telescope was one of seven that played a historic role in astronomical history by helpingdetermine just how far away Earth was from the sun and, by deduction, the size of our solarsystem.The Navy sent astronomers with the telescopes to China and South Africa to view the last twoVenus transits in 1874 and 1882."I think it has a beautiful view, and hopefully a century from now the Naval Observatory will be ableto pull it out for a repeat," said U.S. Naval Observatory Flagstaff Station Director Paul Shankland.The telescope will be kept in its current setup and used for public viewing nights like the FlagstaffFestival of Science this fall.
8. Astronomical Interest in TransitBy Olivia CaldwellNearly 140 years ago, the transit of Venus was observed in Queenstown by a United States NavalObservatory scientific expedition and on Wednesday modern stargazers gathered at the same spotto watch the planet appear once again between the earth and the sun.The Queenstown site was one of eight stations set up worldwide in 1874 to witness the transit,which occurs only four times each 243 years and is not due again until 2117.The rarity of the occasion meant Wednesdays gathering, featuring mulled wine and a sausagesizzle in Melbourne St, behind the Millennium Hotel, was one of huge significance."Ive got on my door Back by 1," Queenstown resident Diane Smith said."I dont know a lot about astronomy, but this is a significant occasion."Diane Smith, Jo Champion and Jessie Champion, all of Queenstown, observe the transit of Venusat the Melbourne St plaque on Wednesday.Mrs Smith gathered with several others who wanted to witness the event at the historic 1874monument in Melbourne St.On December 9, 1874, the transit was observed by the American scientists, putting Queenstown onthe map in an era of astronomical discovery.In 1874, the group, led by Dr C.H.F. Peters, stayed in Queenstown for 11 weeks and arrived withequipment such as a large equatorial travelling telescope housed in an octagonal building with arevolving roof, a telegraph office and a darkened chamber for photographers.By December 19, the party had taken 239 pictures of the sun.The rare transit occurs when Venus revolves around the sun inside the earths orbit and crosses theface of the sun, making it appear as a tiny dot on the suns surface.The patterned interval runs between transits of 8, 121.5, 8, 105.5, 8 and 121.5 years - which meansthose who witnessed this weeks transit will most likely miss the next in 105.5 years.Historically, the rare alignment gave scientists a rare chance to measure the size of the solarsystem.In 1769, Captain Cook voyaged to Tahiti for the Royal Society to observe the event and calculatethe distance between the sun and the earth.It was on that voyage he became the first explorer to circumnavigate New Zealand.Since then, the transit of Venus has occurred in 1874, 1882, and 2004, before Wednesdays event.The next will come in 2117.9. Brown to lead StennisThe Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command at Stennis Space Center is getting a newcommander.
Navy Secretary Ray Mabus says Capt. Brian B. Brown is being promoted to rear admiral and will beposted to Stennis.A news release says Brown is currently executive assistant to the director for oceanography, space,and maritime domain awareness at the Pentagon.10. NOAA Administrator Dr. Lubchenco names new Deputy Under Secretary for OperationsIt gives me great pleasure to announce Rear Admiral David Titley as the next Deputy UnderSecretary for Operations (DUS/O) at NOAA. As NOAA’s Chief Operating Officer, Dr. Titley will beresponsible for managing operations across NOAA’s entire portfolio and will serve as one of my keyadvisors on NOAA program and policy issues.Dr. Titley brings to this position a wealth of knowledge and experience in leading large, complexorganizations and directing major operations around the world. A naval officer since 1980, RearAdmiral Titley’s distinguished career has included seven deployments to the Mediterranean Sea,Indian Ocean, and Western Pacific region and multiple commands (Fleet Numerical Meteorologicaland Oceanographic Center, Naval Oceanography Operations Command, and Naval Meteorologyand Oceanography Command). Shore tours include serving on the staff of the U.S. Commission onOcean Policy and as the senior military assistant to the director of Net Assessment in the Office ofthe Secretary of DefenseIn 2009, he assumed the duties of the oceanographer and navigator of the Navy, and in 2012, hebecame acting assistant deputy chief of Naval Operations for Information Dominance. Dr. Titley’seducation includes a Bachelor of Science in meteorology from the Pennsylvania State University, aMaster of Science in meteorology and physical oceanography, and a Ph.D. in meteorology, bothfrom the Naval Postgraduate School. His dissertation focused on better understanding tropicalcyclone intensification. He was elected a Fellow of the American Meteorological Society in 2009.I couldn’t be more pleased that Dr. Titley will be joining our senior leadership team in July.11. 20,000 colleagues under the seaSAILING the seven seas is old hat. The latest trick is to glide them. Sea gliders are smallunmanned vessels which are now cruising the briny by the hundred. They use a minuscule amountof power, so they can stay out for months. And, being submarines, they are rarely troubled by thevicissitudes of weather at the surface. Their only known enemies are sharks (several have comeback covered in tooth marks) and fishing nets.Sea gliders are propelled by buoyancy engines. These are devices that pump oil in and out of anexternal bladder which, because it deflates when it is empty, means that the craft’s density changesas well. This causes the glider to ascend or sink accordingly, but because it has wings some of thatvertical force is translated into horizontal movement. Such movement is slow (the top speed of mostgliders is about half a knot), but the process is extremely efficient. That means gliders can be senton long missions. In 2009, for example, a glider called Scarlet Knight, operated by RutgersUniversity, in New Jersey, crossed the Atlantic on a single battery charge, though it took sevenmonths to do so.Since that crossing, gliders have been deployed on many previously unthinkable missions. In 2010teams from the American navy, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and iRobot, a robot-maker
based in Bedford, Massachusetts, used them to track the underwater effects of the DeepwaterHorizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. That same year a glider owned by Oregon State Universitywatched an underwater volcano erupting in the Lau basin near Tonga. In 2011 a glider made byanother firm, Teledyne Webb of East Falmouth, also in Massachusetts, tracked seaborne radiationleaked from the tsunami-damaged reactors in Fukushima, Japan. And the University ofNewfoundland is planning to use gliders equipped with sonar to inspect icebergs, to work outwhether they are a threat to underwater cables and other seabed infrastructure.Skipping under the oceanTen years ago there were fewer than 30 gliders in the world, all built either by academic institutionsor the armed forces. Now there are at least 400, and most are made by one of three firms: iRobot,whose product is called, simply, Seaglider; Teledyne Webb, which manufactures the Slocum Glider(named after Joshua Slocum, the first man to sail solo around the world); and Bluefin Robotics (thethird member of the Massachusetts sea-glider cluster, based in Quincy), which sells the SprayGlider. Broadly speaking, these machines have three sorts of application: scientific, military andcommercial.At the moment, science rules the roost. For cash-strapped oceanographers, gliders are a blessing.Their running costs are negligible and, though buying one can cost as much as $150,000, that sumwould purchase a mere three days of, say, a manned trip to the Southern Ocean.Gliders, moreover, give a continuous view of what is going on, rather than the series of snapshotsyielded by equipment lowered from a vessel at the surface. Besides tracking pollution, watchingvolcanoes and measuring icebergs, they are following fish around, monitoring changingtemperatures in different layers of seawater and mapping the abundance of algae. The Ice Dragon,a modified Seaglider operated by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, has explored under theAntarctic ice shelf, and another modified Seaglider, the Deepglider, can plumb the depths down to6km (20,000 feet). Teledyne Webb’s Storm Glider, meanwhile, lurks in hurricane-prone areas,bobbing up to take readings during extreme weather.Gliders are also quiet—so quiet that, as one researcher puts it, you can use them “to hear a fishfart”. This was demonstrated by a recent project run by the University of South Florida, in which aglider successfully mapped the locations of red grouper and toadfish populations on the WestFlorida Shelf from the noises the fish made.Military applications are growing, too. America’s navy, for example, has ordered 150 gliders fromTeledyne Webb’s sister company, Teledyne Brown, for what it calls its Littoral Battlespace Sensing-Glider programme. To start with, these gliders will be used individually, to measure underwaterconditions that affect things like sonar. Eventually, the plan is to link them into a network that movesaround in a co-ordinated manner.Gliders are also ideal for gathering intelligence. Having no propellers and no engine noise, they aredifficult to detect. They can be delivered by submarine, and can lurk unseen for as long as isnecessary. Any shipping, whether on the surface or under it, which passes near a glider can bedetected, identified and pinpointed without it realising it has been spotted. Indeed, the Americannavy is now evaluating a design called the Waveglider, made by Liquid Robotics of Sunnyvale,California, for submarine-detection work.
The third use, commerce, seems, at the moment, to be the smallest—though that may be becausethe companies involved are keeping quiet about what they are doing. But Joe Dyer, the chiefstrategy officer at iRobot, thinks oil-and-gas exploration will be a big market for the firm’s gliders,because they can survey large areas of seabed in detail at low cost.ACSA, a French glider firm, has a similar market in mind. In March it launched the SeaExplorer, astreamlined, wingless glider with a speed of one knot—twice as fast as the American competition.According to Patrice Pla, ACSA’s marketing manager, SeaExplorer’s lack of wings reduces thechance of its getting tangled in nets. Its payload bay, meanwhile, is designed to takeinterchangeable modules so that it can hold whatever equipment is required. That meanscustomers do not have to buy different gliders for different applications.A glide path to discoveryNor is ACSA the only non-American in the field. A glider called Sea Wing, for example, has beendeveloped at the Shenyang Institute of Automation, in China, by Yuan Dongliang of the country’sInstitute of Oceanography. It was tested last year and operated successfully in the western Pacificat depths of up to 800 metres. Meanwhile, at Tianjin University, a team of glider researchers istrying to improve the machines’ endurance. They are testing fuel cells instead of batteries and arealso working on the idea of powering them with a thermal engine that draws its energy from thedifferences in temperature between seawater at different depths.Japanese researchers, too, are building gliders. At Osaka University, Masakazu Arima is involved inseveral glider projects. One is a small, low-cost version called ALEX that has independentlymovable wings. Another is a solar-powered device called SORA. Though SORA has to surface torecharge, its requirements are so modest that it does not take long to do so. It can travelunderwater for months, surface for a few days, then carry on. It can therefore stay at seaindefinitely.Dr Arima’s greatest interest, though, is like America’s navy’s: that his gliders should collaborate. Hisplan is to deploy 1,000 of them in a network that surveys and measures the oceans. If it works, thesingle spies of sea-gliding really will have become battalions, and the ocean’s fish will findthemselves shadowed by shoals of mechanical counterparts.12. How Navy supercomputers help sailors beat an ancient nemesisBy Daniel TerdimanMONTEREY, Calif.--One after another, the framed pictures on both walls of the narrow hallway tellthe story: submarines and naval ships churning white wakes as they slash through open ocean,each photo accompanied by unbidden gratitude."Thank you for your teams efforts & hard work! You ensure my safety and enhance my tacticaladvantage," one reads.Welcome to the U.S. Navys Fleet Numerical Meteorology & Oceanography Center. That long-and-hard-to-say name notwithstanding, this is one of the United States militarys sharpest weapons inthe never-ending battle for survival in rough seas all around the globe.
A supercomputer center hidden behind guarded gates in an unassuming residential neighborhoodin this coastal California city about two hours south of San Francisco, Fleet Numerical, as itsknown, counts among its many tasks giving sailors the worlds most up-to-date and reliable weatherforecasts, information they can use to try to withstand the mariners ancient nemesis --unpredictable weather -- while also attempting to stay one step ahead of any potential human foes.At its core, Fleet Numericals mission is simple: it must use its collection of supercomputers -- TopSecret, classified and unclassified -- to provide the best possible weather forecasting to both Navyfleet weather centers in Norfolk, Va., and San Diego, and to Navy aviation assets around the world.And, since 2008, the facility has been responsible for sending the Navys submarine fleet weatherdata that can help them decide when to surface, or more importantly, when not to. That missionwas added after a Naval tragedy in which a number of submariners died at sea when their shipencountered a storm of unexpected ferocity.There are other weather centers, of course, but as commanding officer, Capt. Erika Sauer (seevideo below), told me when I visited Fleet Numerical yesterday as part of Road Trip 2012, thefacility benefits from its immediate proximity to weather and supercomputing experts at the NavalResearch Laboratory, the National Weather Service, and the Naval Postgraduate School, all ofwhich are in Monterey. That allows Fleet Numericals team of just 13 officers, 13 enlisted, and 128civilians to do a job that the National Weather Services own forecasting center needs at least threetimes the resources to do, while the U.S. Air Forces needs twice as much, Sauer explained.NOGAPSFleet Numerical got its start as the Navy Numerical Weather Problems Group in 1958 in Suitland,Md. A year later, it relocated to Monterey, and in 1961, it was renamed the Fleet NumericalWeather Facility. Last year, the facility celebrated its 50th anniversary.Today, its major product is what is known as NOGAPS, or the Navy Operational GlobalAtmospheric Prediction System. This provides forecasting at a resolution of about 21 nautical milesand 42 vertical levels up to 106,000 feet. But Fleet Numerical has other products it provides its"customers" in the Navy, the Department of Defense, and among coalition partners, including theCoupled Ocean/Atmospheric Mesoscale Prediction System, which is a "regional mesoscale model,multi-nested to (about) 1,800 yards to 14 (nautical miles) resolution (and) 45 vertical levels.As well, theres the WaveWatch III, a spectral ocean wave model with global (21 nautical mile) andregional (3 nautical mile) implementations; the Ensemble Forecast System, a 20-simulation, 15-dayforecast; and the Navy Atmospheric Aerosol Prediction System, "the only operational global aerosolmodel," which is used to feed the militarys Target Acquisition Weapons Software.Fleet Numericals most powerful supercomputer is a Dell Linux cluster system known as A2Emerald with 27.3 peak teraflops. But that runs the centers unclassified global modeling, whichbrings in giant amounts of data from countries all around the world. Its classified and Top Secretcomputers are smaller, and are geared towards much finer resolution regional and local modeling.And while even A2 Emerald cant hold a candle to the worlds most powerful supercomputers, it isnevertheless a system that has gotten better over time. In 1988, it took as much processing powerto produce a 72-hour forecast as it now takes to generate one of five days.Overcoming uncertainty and providing an advantageOne of the key missions at Fleet Numerical is to help those who need it get an advantage when
having one is essential. That can range from the aftermath of regional disasters like Japansdisastrous 2011 earthquake and tsunami to offering the best assessment of wind probabilities tocrews handling the Deepwater Horizon oil spill crisis in 2010. And of course, the U.S. military and itsfriends can imagine many ways that knowing more about weather conditions at sea than itsenemies could be a big advantage. "By using this system and technique," Sauer said, "it allows youto quantify uncertainty."This involves an intelligence mission, known as the Information Dominance Corps. One example ofthat, she explained, is how the Navy is utilizing Fleet Numericals data in combating piracy off thecoast of Somalia. There, pirates are known to stick to calm waters, and with the data in had, theU.S. military can pre-position itself in areas deemed likely to meet the pirates needs.In the end, Fleet Numerical is 24/7/365 facility geared toward ensuring that the Navy has the best-possible weather data for taking on the many challenges it faces around the world every day,weather thats on the surface of the sea, or well above it. And thats why that wall inside the centeris adorned with so many paeans from commanders who know that the work done here helped themdo their jobs better. Thats why sailors like the commander of the submarine, USS Texas, wrote onone of those photographs, "You directly supported our last mission with timely and vital information.You make a difference to our success. THANK YOU!"13. Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific hosts NATO exerciseBy Ashley NekouiSAN DIEGO -Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific was one of three locationsthroughout the world to host the Coalition Warrior Interoperability eXploration, eXperimentation,eXamination, (CWIX) Exercise, June 6-20.CWIX is an annual North Atlantic Treaty Organization military committee approved event, designedto bring about continuous improvement in interoperability for the alliance. Coalition partnersparticipating in the exercise included Finland, Poland, France, Sweden, Denmark, Turkey, theUnited Kingdom, Germany, Italy, and the United States. About 1,000 personnel participated inCWIX.The CWIX program primarily focuses on testing and improving the interoperability of NATO andnational command and control (C2) capabilities with a particular emphasis on those that would bedeployed within a Combined Joint Task Force or NATO Response Force.During the exercise, systems and network engineers worked alongside military personnel fromvarious countries, solving interoperability issues while exploring and sharing potential solutions forfuture operations.This years CWIX scenario was located off of the Horn of Africa. Participants tested multipletechnologies in support of maritime domain awareness, defense response, and threat response todetermine operability among their respective systems.Participating coalition partners tested five capabilities from San Diego with systems in Bydgoszcz,Poland.Meteorology and oceanography (METOC) data from the Fleet Numerical Meteorology and
Oceanography Center (FNMOC) in Monterey, Calif., was passed through a data-diode in San Diegointo a classified coalition environment and shared with coalition partners. The METOC capabilityallows users to view various weather situations in real time. This data is critical to air and seaoperations and used as a major planning factor in land-based operations."Something like this has never been done before in military history," said Jay Iannacito, projectmanager for coalition interoperability at SSC Pacific.Several versions of Global Command and Control System-Maritime were exchanged during CWIX,which allowed users to share command messages, a common operational picture, and to track datawith various programs, including NATOs Maritime Command and Control System, Command andControl Personal Computer, the Baseline for Rapid Iterative Transformation Experiment, and theWeb Information Service.The Navy Automated Maritime Surveillance Systems (MEVAT), a Finnish global surveillance andC2 system, supports the exchange of specific data that is shared among the groups."It was good to be able to share information within the cloud and test MEVAT in this environment,"said Finnish Cmdr. Juha Ravanti, who participated in the CWIX Exercise at SSC Pacific.Service Oriented Infrastructure for Maritime Traffic Tracking, an Italian global surveillance system,was tested in an unclassified and classified environment and demonstrated the added capability ofdata exchange among several servers and capabilities.Tactical data links, including Link 16 and 22 were also tested during CWIX. Link 16 is an exchangenetwork that allows military aircraft, ships, and ground forces to exchange their tactical picture innear-real time. Link 22 is a secure digital radio link and used alongside Link 16. Both links providedata to the coalition command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, reconnaissance,and surveillance systems."The ultimate goal for coalition interoperability testing at SSC Pacific is to move from a distributednetwork environment to an operational exercise afloat in a radio-frequency environment in the AsianPacific Rim theatre," said Iannacito.