New satellite measures CO2 in more detail than ever before - Tucson News Now

New satellite measures CO2 in more detail than ever before

Concept) This most recent artist's rendering shows NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO)-2, one of five new NASA Earth science missions set to launch in 2014, and one of three managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). Concept) This most recent artist's rendering shows NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO)-2, one of five new NASA Earth science missions set to launch in 2014, and one of three managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).
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NASA's newest satellite is now sending data back to Earth. The Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2), which launched July 2, measures carbon dioxide (CO2) levels from both man-made and human sources. The slightly different make-up of these two sources allows scientists to determine origin. 

According to NASA, OCO-2 "will produce the most detailed picture to date of the man-made and natural sources of carbon dioxide, as well as their natural “sinks”—places on Earth's surface where carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere."

It is important to gather detailed data on the CO2 sinks and sources to determine how they change over time, which can have an influence on the Earth's temperature. CO2 is one of the major greenhouse gasses that make our Earth livable. 

The image below shows some of the first data captured by OCO-2 as it flew over Papua-New Guinea on August 6, 2014. NASA breaks down the image in the following description. 

"Each plot shows three different spectra, or wavelength, observed by the satellite's spectrometers: 760 nanometers (atmospheric oxygen), 1610 nanometers (carbon dioxide), and 2060 nanometers (carbon dioxide). As OCO-2 flies over Earth's sunlit hemisphere, each spectrometer collects a frame three times per second (a total of about 9,000 frames from each orbit). Each frame is divided into eight spectra that record the amount of molecular oxygen or carbon dioxide over adjacent ground footprints, each of which is about 2.25 kilometers (1.39 miles) long and a few hundred meters wide. When displayed as an image, the spectra appear like bar codes. The dark lines indicate absorption by molecular oxygen or carbon dioxide."

Follow the OCO-2 mission at http://oco.jpl.nasa.gov/.

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