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What's Your Summer Safety EyeQ?
Most of us have heard the warnings about the relationship between sun and UV light exposure and skin cancer. But many are not aware of how damaging sun and UV light can be to our eyes. "Although not every situation or every person requires sunglasses, there are many situations where the use of sunglasses will enhance comfort and may provide eye health benefits as well," says Jessica Ciralsky, M.D., an attending ophthalmologist at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center.
While many of us think about the sun and tanning beds when we hear about ultraviolet (UV) radiation, other sources, such as welding operations and lasers, also can produce UV radiation. UV radiation can harm the eyes, and other components of solar radiation also can impact vision.
How to Protect the Eyes
There are three types of UV radiation. UV-C is absorbed by the ozone layer and does not present any threat. However, UV-A and UV-B radiation can have long- and short-term negative effects on the eyes and vision. The longer the eyes are exposed to solar radiation, the greater the risk of developing cataracts or macular degeneration later in life. The American Optometric Association (AOA; http://www.aoa.org) recommends that whenever you spend time outdoors for work or play, wear quality sunglasses that offer UV protection and a hat or cap with a wide brim.
Sunglasses – AOA recommends the use of sunglasses that block 99-100 percent of UV-A and UV-B rays to protect the eyes from this radiation. Keep in mind that many sunglasses styles do not protect the eyes from the solar radiation entering from the sides or around sunglasses. To provide adequate protection for your eyes, AOA recommends sunglasses should:
Block out 99 to 100 percent of both UV-A and UV-B radiation;
Screen out 75 to 90 percent of visible light;
Have lenses that are perfectly matched in color and free of distortion and imperfection; and
Have lenses that are gray for proper color recognition.
Wear impact-resistant lenses that meet ANSI Z87.1 if you are working outdoors where eye hazards such as flying wood chips or gravel could be an issue and when playing an outdoor sport.
Consider wearing wraparound frames for additional protection from harmful solar radiation if you spend a lot of time outdoors in bright sunlight.
Contact lenses – Some contact lenses offer additional protection. These contact lenses absorb UV radiation by reducing the amount of radiation that reaches the surface of eye. The contact lenses also protect the eye from the radiation that comes from above or around the sides of sunglasses. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has standards for UV-blocking contact lenses based on American National Standards Institute Z80.20 standards. There are two classifications of UV-blocking lenses:
FDA Class I blocker – Recommended for high-exposure environments such as mountains or beaches. The lenses in this classification must block more than 90 percent of UVA (316-380 nm wavelengths) and 99 percent of UVB (280 – 315 nm).
FDA Class II blocker – Recommended for general purposes. These lenses must block more than 70 percent of UVA and 95 percent of UVB.
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What's Your Summer Safety EyeQ?
Most of us have heard the warnings about the relationship between sun and UV light exposure and skin cancer. But many are not aware of how damaging sun and UV light can be to our eyes. "Although not every situation or every person requires sunglasses, there are many situations where the use of sunglasses will enhance comfort and may provide eye health benefits as well," says Jessica Ciralsky, M.D., an attending ophthalmologist at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center.
While many of us think about the sun and tanning beds when we hear about ultraviolet (UV) radiation, other sources, such as welding operations and lasers, also can produce UV radiation. UV radiation can harm the eyes, and other components of solar radiation also can impact vision.
How to Protect the Eyes
There are three types of UV radiation. UV-C is absorbed by the ozone layer and does not present any threat. However, UV-A and UV-B radiation can have long- and short-term negative effects on the eyes and vision. The longer the eyes are exposed to solar radiation, the greater the risk of developing cataracts or macular degeneration later in life. The American Optometric Association (AOA; http://www.aoa.org) recommends that whenever you spend time outdoors for work or play, wear quality sunglasses that offer UV protection and a hat or cap with a wide brim.
Sunglasses – AOA recommends the use of sunglasses that block 99-100 percent of UV-A and UV-B rays to protect the eyes from this radiation. Keep in mind that many sunglasses styles do not protect the eyes from the solar radiation entering from the sides or around sunglasses. To provide adequate protection for your eyes, AOA recommends sunglasses should:
Block out 99 to 100 percent of both UV-A and UV-B radiation;
Screen out 75 to 90 percent of visible light;
Have lenses that are perfectly matched in color and free of distortion and imperfection; and
Have lenses that are gray for proper color recognition.
Wear impact-resistant lenses that meet ANSI Z87.1 if you are working outdoors where eye hazards such as flying wood chips or gravel could be an issue and when playing an outdoor sport.
Consider wearing wraparound frames for additional protection from harmful solar radiation if you spend a lot of time outdoors in bright sunlight.
Contact lenses – Some contact lenses offer additional protection. These contact lenses absorb UV radiation by reducing the amount of radiation that reaches the surface of eye. The contact lenses also protect the eye from the radiation that comes from above or around the sides of sunglasses. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has standards for UV-blocking contact lenses based on American National Standards Institute Z80.20 standards. There are two classifications of UV-blocking lenses:
FDA Class I blocker – Recommended for high-exposure environments such as mountains or beaches. The lenses in this classification must block more than 90 percent of UVA (316-380 nm wavelengths) and 99 percent of UVB (280 – 315 nm).
FDA Class II blocker – Recommended for general purposes. These lenses must block more than 70 percent of UVA and 95 percent of UVB.
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House panel irked by Air Force request for ORS-6 launch funds
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Air Force plans to launch a weather demonstration satellite aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket next year, but has drawn the ire of a key House subcommittee in trying to ensure funding for the launch was available. In a letter dated July 1 to congressional defense committees, Deborah Lee James, the secretary of the Air Force, said the Compact Ocean Wind Vector Radiometer, would launch in September 2017 as part of a rideshare mission. The launch is part of a previously undisclosed contract with Spaceflight Industries, which arranges rideshare launches.
James asked Congress to lift restrictions on funding for the Air Force’s next-generation weather satellite program, known as the Weather Satellite Follow-on. Congress had fenced about $21 million from the program in 2015 and 2016 as part of the National Defense Authorization Act amid concerns the Air Force was not focusing on preventing two more immediate gaps in weather satellite data: cloud characterization data and in-theater weather imagery. Lawmakers also wanted a broader weather strategy from the Defense Department. That document is expected to go to Congress soon, sources said.
James said if the Air Force did not have access to the $21 million by July 15, “the current contractual rideshare commitment will be placed at risk.” But leaders from the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee responded in a July 18 letter that they would release just $3.3 million, an amount they determined, in consultation with the Air Force, that would allow the launch to continue. They also noted that an electronic copy of James’ July 1 letter wasn’t sent until July 8. “We are extremely disappointed in the manner the Air Force has handled the weather satellite program,” Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), the chairman of the subcommittee, and Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), the subcommittee’s ranking member, wrote.
“We find the current situation troubling because the Air Force has had over 18 months to develop and provide Congress a plan as required in the FY 2015 NDAA, and over seven months to provide a briefing and a certification as required in the FY 2016 NDAA. Rather than promptly completing those tasks, the Air Force instead has chosen to give Congress seven days to act on a request to waive the applicable laws in order to obtain the remaining FY 2015 and FY 2016 funds.” The HASC, and Rogers in particular, has criticized the Air Force’s handling of weather satellites in recent years for what it has described as a lack of strategy and for wasting money and Congress’ time.
“We find the Air Force’s lack of planning and execution that led to this situation very troubling and note that these actions give us significant reservations regarding the Air Force’ s ability to effectively manage this important space program,” the letter said. The Air Force’s Operationally Responsive Space office has been tasked with working on a small weather satellite, known as COVWR or ORS-6, that hopes to prove out smaller microwave technology for creating weather data on ocean surface winds and tropical cyclone intensity.
The COWVR satellite is intended to provide ocean-wind data that currently comes from the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory’s Windsat satellite, which launched in 2003 and is well beyond its expected design life. The demonstration then would pave the way for the formal Weather Satellite Follow-on system, the first satellite of which would launch in 2022. James’ letter appears to be the first mention of an Air Force contract with Spaceflight. A spokeswoman for the Seattle, Washington-based company declined to comment. But during a session at the Conference on Small Satellites in Logan, Utah, Aug. 9, Air Force Lt. Col. Benjamin Cook of the ORS Office said ORS-6 would fly as one of several payloads on a Falcon 9 in the fall of 2017. “Instead of a dedicated launch, we can save significant funding by going with a rideshare,” he said. Cook didn’t say if that launch is arranged by by Spaceflight, but he did state it was a “commercial rideshare” that had control of the schedule. “It does set our timeline, which is a little bit different than most Air Force missions,” he said. In September 2015, Spaceflight announced that it had purchased a Falcon 9 from SpaceX for a “dedicated rideshare” mission scheduled to launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California in the second half of 2017.
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GAO remains concerned about potential polar satellite weather data gap
WASHINGTON — While the first of a new generation of polar-orbiting weather satellites remains on schedule to launch next year, the U.S. Government Accountability Office is concerned that it may slip, increasing the risk of a data gap.
In testimony before the House Science Committee’s environment subcommittee July 7, David Powner, director of information technology management issues at the GAO, argued that National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration had downplayed the risk of a gap that could emerge if an instrument on the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (NPP) spacecraft fails before the launch of the first Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) satellite next year.
Powner criticized NOAA for a chart at a December 2015 hearing that suggested Suomi NPP could last until 2020. NOAA said after that hearing that the extended lifetime is based only the fuel remaining on board the spacecraft, and doesn’t take into account the health of other spacecraft systems.
“It is not the expected life of the spacecraft and its sensors,” he said. “This is just another instance where NOAA’s charts and satellite lifespans have been misleading to the Congress.”
Instead, the key issue is the health of one of the spacecraft’s instruments, the Advanced Technology Microwave Sounder (ATMS). A scan drive motor critical to its operation is showing signs of aging, according to NOAA. “The main concern is the gap with ATMS on NPP, and will it last long enough until we get J-1 up there and transition to the ATMS on J-1,” Powner said, referring to the first JPSS spacecraft. “That’s I think the key question in the near term.”
That first JPSS satellite, also known as JPSS-1, is currently scheduled for launch in March 2017. Powner, though, said he “remained concerned” about that launch date, noting the program had missed several interim milestones and recently delayed the launch readiness date for the spacecraft from December 2016 to January 2017. He said two upcoming key milestones are the delivery of the JPSS ground system, planned for August, and the beginning of thermal vacuum testing of JPSS-1 later this month.
The failure of the ATMS instrument on Suomi NPP before June 2017, the earliest Powner estimated JPSS-1 would be ready to enter service after post-launch checkouts, would deprive scientists of some data from that “early afternoon” polar orbit. That would, in turn, affect the accuracy of weather forecasting.
“There is a marked change in the accuracy in the forecast” over periods of three to seven days if data is no longer available from that orbit, Stephen Volz, assistant administrator for the National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Services (NESDIS) at NOAA, said at the hearing.
Powner also warned about the information security of the JPSS ground system. “NOAA has determined that the JPSS ground system is at high risk of compromise” from intruders, he said. NOAA has been working to reduce the number of vulnerabilities in the system, but is still tracking about 1,200 of them. “NOAA needs to close these vulnerabilities much more quickly,” he said.
Despite those issues, Powner said that JPSS was still in better shape than the program it replaced, the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS), a joint effort of NOAA, NASA and the U.S. Air Force that the Obama Administration cancelled in 2010. “NOAA has done a solid job coming out of the NPOESS debacle and being on the verge of the J-1 launch,” he said.
Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.), the chairman of the subcommittee, said he would continue to keep close tabs on the JPSS program as its first satellite approaches launch. “There has been improvement in the JPSS program over the past few years, but there are still potential causes of concern,” he said.
Bridenstine also used the hearing to ask NOAA about the status of its commercial weather data pilot program, which received $3 million in 2016 to purchase GPS radio occultation satellite data from commercial vendors to test its use in NOAA weather models. “The advancements of the commercial weather satellite industry has real potential to improve our forecasting capabilities and provide gap mitigation,” he said.
“It’s going at a relatively breakneck speed,” Volz said of the pilot program. A draft request for quotations is currently being reviewed by industry, he said, with the final request due out in early August. There is no commercial data currently available, he noted, but he said he anticipates the launch of satellites that could provide such data in the next six months.
At a NOAA industry data about the program July 7, Karen St. Germain, director of the NESDIS office of system architecture and advanced planning, said NOAA anticipates awarding one or more contracts by the end of September. The contracts would cover data collected between October 2016 and April 2017.
The pilot program will sidestep one controversial issue about commercial weather. NOAA officials have stated in the past that it would feel obligated to share data it purchased from commercial satellites with other national weather agencies, just as it does with data from its own satellites. That has worried companies who fear losing the ability to sell that data to other customers if NOAA freely shares it.
There are no plans, St. Germain said, to share data purchased under those pilot program contracts with operational partners, but instead only those who will be working to assess the quality of the data. “There are some issues we’re not tackling with the pilot,” she said.
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