NASA launches climate change satellite probe

The US space agency has launched a satellite mission that will aim to monitor our planet’s air and oceans in the hope of better understanding climate change.

The Plankton, Aerosol, Climate, and Ocean Ecosystem (PACE) satellite blasted off into orbit at 1.33 a.m. EST from Cape Canaveral in Florida on February 8th, courtesy of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

It will aim to study ocean health, air quality, and changing climate, with a view to better combatting the latter, said NASA.

Though taken from hundreds of miles above the planet’s surface, the satellite’s observations will be microscopic in scale, studying tiny life forms in the water and particles in the air.

Special instruments aboard PACE will allow researchers to measure oceans and other concentrations of water across a spectrum of ultraviolet, visible, and near-infrared light.

Scientists and coastal resource managers will use the data gleaned to help forecast the health of fisheries, track harmful plant life, such as certain types of algae, and identify changes in the marine environment.

Other instruments on board the satellite will be used to track how sunlight interacts with particles in the atmosphere, providing insight into cloud properties and air quality.

Finally, the instruments will be used in tandem with one another to get a better understanding of how the oceans and atmosphere interact and how a changing climate affects these interactions.

“With this new addition to NASA’s fleet of Earth-observing satellites, PACE will help us learn, like never before, how particles in our atmosphere and our oceans can identify key factors impacting global warming,” said a spokesperson for the space agency.

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