NASA Has Revealed The First Images Of U.S. Air Quality And Pollution

NASA’s pioneering air pollution sensor, the Tropospheric Emissions: Monitoring of Pollution (TEMPO), has unveiled its first images, illuminating the dynamic fluctuations of toxic pollutants across the United States.

These revealing images, taken during the testing phase from July 31 to Aug. 2, document the fluctuating concentrations of nitrogen oxide, a harmful byproduct of fossil fuel combustion, across major North American cities. With the potential to inflict respiratory harm and contribute to asthma, nitrogen oxide warrants meticulous observation to safeguard public health.

Kelly Chance, TEMPO’s principal investigator from the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, elucidated the sensor’s versatile capabilities, stating, “TEMPO is beginning to measure hourly daytime air pollution over greater North America.”

The scope of TEMPO’s detections spans beyond nitrogen oxide to encompass ozone, formaldehyde, aerosols, water vapor, and diverse trace gases. This comprehensive approach enables a holistic understanding of the air’s composition and the presence of various chemical compounds.

Positioned within the geostationary orbit atop the Intelsat 40e satellite, TEMPO’s operational vantage point resides at 22,000 miles. Leveraging Earth’s rotation, satellites in geostationary orbit remain positioned above fixed equatorial coordinates, affording TEMPO an unceasing view of its designated areas of interest. This unique arrangement empowers TEMPO to deliver hourly pollution assessments spanning the breadth of North America, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and from Mexico City to central Canada.

TEMPO’s observational prowess hinges on its capacity to measure the sunlight reflected off Earth’s surface, atmosphere, and clouds. By analyzing the distinctive wavelengths of absorbed light, TEMPO deciphers the composition of the air and quantifies the concentrations of various chemical constituents. This methodological precision empowers scientists to glean invaluable insights into the complex interplay of pollutants and atmospheric elements.

Launched aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in April, TEMPO underwent meticulous positioning to align with its intended trajectory. Now operational and validated, TEMPO is the premier satellite to furnish real-time air pollution measurements across North America. Highlighting the far-reaching implications of TEMPO’s contributions, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson emphasized the transformative impact of its data on communities nationwide.

“Neighborhoods and communities across the country will benefit from TEMPO’s game-changing data for decades to come,” Nelson remarked, underscoring the commitment to elevate air quality awareness and ameliorate its implications for all.

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