National Geographic : 1956 Feb
Palmer Peninsula 0_ 7 EST © National Geographic Map and longitude determinations in an important area of IGY environment appraisal. Even with modern optical and electronic equipment, the charted distances between key geographi cal points on certain continents may be as much as several hundred feet in error. By direct photography of the moon, mak ing this natural satellite of the earth a tri angulation point, mappers are confident of reducing the probable error in measured dis tances between continents to a fraction of the present error. Pinning down place locations will assure more accurate time measurement, as well as more precise knowledge of the speed at which the earth spins in space and of irregularities in its rotation. Society Aids Cosmic Ray Study Since 1946 research grants by the National Geographic Society have supported cosmic ray studies. A major objective of the IGY effort will be to swell our knowledge of these little understood impulses, spawned, it seems, both in the sun and in interstellar space.* Mightier far than any form of energy man has yet been able to release, cosmic rays spray the earth constantly, with occasional power bursts greater by multiples of millions than those generated by the biggest atomic accel erators. Cosmic rays may hold, locked in the secret of their nature and origin, clues to new sources of power as revolutionary as thermo nuclear fusion. Ultraviolet radiation from the sun, by eject ing electrons from the molecules of the gases constituting air, creates the so-called iono sphere, the atmospheric layer from 50 to more than 200 miles above the earth. Ebb and flow in ionization, which directly affect radio reception, are thought to reflect IGY Research Focuses Along Five Meridians Chosen lines of longitude 70°-80° W. and 10°, 110°, and 140° E.- cross major land masses with numerous obser vation sites. North Americans will work along the 80th me ridian; South Americans along the 70th. Other geophysical surveys are scheduled for the equatorial belt and polar areas. The 1957-58 International Geophysical Year continues the cooperative studies for which the Polar Years of 1882-83 and 1932-33 set precedents. abnormal activity on the sun. By means of electronic recorders, IGY observers at hun dreds of stations will trace the pattern of such fluctuations in earth's "electrical weather." The beautiful and elusive aurora throws across the sky an electrical mirror that grossly distorts reception of electric waves (page 293). Studies of the aurora, as well as of cosmic rays, have long been supported by the Na tional Geographic Society.t International Geophysical Year studies in oceanography will broaden knowledge of the deep currents in the sea, as a requisite for long-range weather forecasting. Submarine geophysical studies will be made in the eastern and western Atlantic basins and in the central and eastern South Pacific.I Sea level recorders at 30 island stations will measure the puzzling day-to-day and season-to-season fluctuations in sea level and their relationship to other phenomena in the ocean and the atmosphere. The oceans and seas cover about 71 per cent of the earth's surface. A better under standing of the constantly moving circulation of the sea is vitally needed, since it affects the climate and weather of the land as well. Just as a river's current speeds up here and there in rapids, so will the normal IGY * See, in the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, "Trailing Cosmic Rays in Canada's North," by Martin A. Pomerantz, Leader, National Geographic Society Bartol Research Foundation Cosmic Ray Expeditions, January, 1953; and "New Frontier in the Sky," by F. Barrows Colton, September, 1946. t See, in the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, "Unlocking Secrets of the Northern Lights," by Carl W. Gartlein, November, 1947; and "Mystery of Auroras: National Geographic Society and Cornell University Study Spectacular Displays in the Heavens," May, 1939. + See, in the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, "New Discoveries on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge," No vember, 1949; and "Exploring the Mid-Atlantic Ridge," September, 1948, both by Maurice Ewing.