Better Measuring for Better Understanding
NASA's latest tool to study and understand our planet's atmosphere is scheduled to launch from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Feb. 23. The Glory satellite will study how the sun and tiny atmospheric particles (aerosols) are affecting the Earth's climate. "Glory is going to help scientists tackle one of the major uncertainties in climate change predictions identified by the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: the influence of aerosols on the energy balance of our planet," said Michael Freilich, director of NASA's Earth Science Division in the Science Mission Directorate at the agency's headquarters in Washington.
Glory will fly in a low-Earth orbit at an altitude of 438 miles. After a 30-day period of tests and calibrations, it should be able to gather data for at least three years.
Glory will carry new technology designed to unravel some of the most complex elements of the Earth system. The mission carries two primary instruments, the Aerosol Polarimetry Sensor (APS) and the Total Irradiance Monitor (TIM). APS will improve measurement of aerosols, the airborne particles that can influence climate by reflecting and absorbing solar radiation and modifying clouds and precipitation.
TIM will extend a decades-long data record of the solar energy striking the top of Earth's atmosphere, or total solar irradiance. APS will collect data at nine different wavelengths, from the visible to short-wave infrared, giving scientists a much-improved understanding of aerosols. The instrument, NASA's first Earth-orbiting polarimeter, will help scientists distinguish between natural and human-produced aerosols. The information will be used to refine global climate models and help scientists determine how our planet is responding to human activities.
The TIM instrument will maintain and improve upon a 32-year record of total solar irradiance, a value that fluctuates slightly as the sun cycles through periods of varying intensity approximately every 11 years. While scientists have concluded that solar variability is not the main cause of the warming observed on Earth in recent decades, the sun has historically caused long-term climate changes. (source)
Via NASA, Science Daily
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