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Space Images Appear to Back Theory

January 31, 2003|From Reuters

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Video cameras aboard the space shuttle Columbia captured an image over Brazil that scientists said Thursday proved a scientific theory about how a major fire on Earth can alter global climate.

The picture shows a large plume of smoke rising from a fire in the rain forest on a cloudy day in the Amazon Basin. Israeli scientist Joachim Joseph said the picture demonstrated the scientific theory that smoke dissipates cloud cover in its vicinity, allowing more sunlight to enter.

"We just made one pass over the jungle and, lo and behold, we get textbook confirmation of a hypothesis," Joseph said.

The image is one of hundreds captured by Israeli cameras during the shuttle's 16-day science mission scheduled to end Saturday.

More than 80 experiments are nearing completion by a seven-member crew including Israel's first astronaut, air force Col. Ilan Ramon.

Joseph said the rain forest fire image will help a study by Brazil and NASA into the effect of major ground fires on the atmosphere.

"If this kind of thing happens, biomass burning all over the world -- and it is happening all the time all over lower latitudes -- if the clouds do that then this is a factor that has to be taken into account when you try to model climate and greenhouse effect on climate more accurately," Joseph said.

Joseph and other scientists with experiments on board the shuttle have declared the mission a success.

For example, an experiment seeking to reduce car emissions set world records for the creation of floating flame balls, and a prostate cancer experiment produced an unexpectedly large tumor.

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