Issue Date: February 7, 2011
Destined For Orbit: Satellite Will Eye Earth's Aerosols
Another tool will be added to the atmospheric-monitoring toolbox on Feb. 23, when a new Earth-observing satellite, Glory, is set to launch from California's Vandenberg Air Force Base. Glory includes two instruments, one of which will be the first in space to measure atmospheric aerosol morphology and composition. Data from Glory should yield a better picture of global and seasonal variability of aerosol properties.
Glory's Aerosol Polarimetry Sensor (APS) will collect visible and infrared light scattered from aerosols and clouds and determine the size, shape, and refractive index of particles. From that information, scientists hope to extract the composition and possibly even the origin of particles, although getting clear information on heterogeneous, nonspherical aerosols might be challenging, says Michael I. Mishchenko, a scientist at the National Aeronautics & Space Administration's Goddard Institute for Space Studies. Nevertheless, APS will provide a new global view of aerosols and their role in Earth's climate.
Glory's second instrument is the Total Irradiance Monitor (TIM), which will continue a 32-year, multisatellite record of monitoring total solar irradiance and its short- and long-term fluctuations.
Glory will join what's known as the "A-Train," a current set of four satellites containing 15 separate instruments that orbit together to provide coordinated and complementary views of Earth's atmosphere and surface: Aqua measures temperature, water vapor, and rainfall; CloudSat and Calipso use laser and radar instruments to map the vertical distribution of clouds and aerosols; and Aura produces vertical maps of some greenhouse gases and other atmospheric chemicals.
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