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Swarm mission

Constellation of three satellites that form the Earth Explorer Swarm mission. Swarm will lead to new insights into the Earth system by improving our understanding of the magnetic field.

The Earth's magnetic field, snow, and Chernobyl

6 April 2011

This week in the Planet Earth Podcast: how scientists plan to measure the Earth's magnetic field from space, why one researcher is in the frozen town of Churchill in northern Canada, and how the Chernobyl disaster still affects Northern Ireland 25 years on.

Next year, the European Space Agency plans to send not just one but three satellites into space at once, on a mission to measure the Earth's magnetic field. The hope is that measurements from the satellite will tell scientists about ocean circulation, the Earth's climate, and how rocks contribute to the Earth's magnetic field.

One of the most challenging parts of the mission is designing the satellites to do this very precise job. Sue Nelson visits the Andromeda clean room at the satellite manufacturer Astrium's Stevenage site to find out more.

We also hear from Mel Sandells from the National Centre for Earth Observation, who's in Churchill in northern Canada to study snow. That sounds flippant, but measuring how much snow there is on the planet is important for understanding exactly where the Earth's water resources are. The ultimate aim is to measure snow depth and mass from satellites in space.


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The Planet Earth podcast - 'The Earth's magnetic field, snow, and Chernobyl'.

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Finally, with the 25th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear disaster coming up this month, Richard Hollingham finds out how fallout from Chernobyl still affects soils across Northern Ireland.

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