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NASA Can Now More Accurately Track Air Pollution From Space

NASA has built a new instrument known as TEMPO (Tropospheric Emissions Monitoring of Pollution) that will help scientists to measure pollution more accurately and collect essential data. It's connected to a commercial communications satellite and will use sunlight reflected by the Earth's surface to help make accurate measurements of pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide in specific areas using a spectrometer.

Image of TEMPO instrument. Image Credits: Courtesy of Maxar

It will monitor areas across Canada, the Atlantic and Pacific ocean, and Mexico city, and will be able to detect pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide, formaldehyde, and ozone. The satellite will then feed back the levels of these pollutants to scientists, who will be able to gather data and use it to hopefully encourage positive change for policy makers and the general public.

“This is going to be a really valuable tool for science, but it’s also going to be helpful for the general public. It will improve our ability to forecast air quality, and also to inform policymakers. And it will be useful for the epidemiologists who want to study the health impacts of air pollution.” said Barry Lefer, NASA's program scientist for the new instrument.

In addition to TEMPO, NASA has also developed a satellite that will help detect greenhouse gas "super-emitters." It does just what it says on the tin, and will help to pinpoint any major sources that are responsible for a significant amount of global emissions compared to other emitters.

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