Washington, Jan 30 (ANI): NASA is all set to launch its first spacecraft that will study atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) on February 23rd.
Known as the Orbiting Carbon Observatory, the spacecraft will be launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, US.
It will provide the first complete picture of human and natural carbon dioxide sources as well as their "sinks," the places where carbon dioxide is pulled out of the atmosphere and stored.
It will map the global geographic distribution of these sources and sinks and study their changes over time.
The measurements will be combined with data from ground stations, aircraft and other satellites to help answer questions about the processes that regulate atmospheric carbon dioxide and its role in Earth's climate and carbon cycle.
Mission data will help scientists reduce uncertainties in predicting future carbon dioxide increases and make more accurate climate change predictions.
Policymakers and business leaders can use the data to make more informed decisions that improve the quality of life on Earth.
"It's critical that we understand the processes controlling carbon dioxide in our atmosphere today so we can predict how fast it will build up in the future and how quickly we'll have to adapt to climate change caused by carbon dioxide buildup," said David Crisp, principal investigator for the Orbiting Carbon Observatory at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
"OCO's carbon dioxide measurements will be pivotal in advancing our knowledge of virtually all Earth system land, atmosphere, and ocean processes," said Michael Freilich, director of NASA's Earth Science Division in Washington.
"They will play crucial roles in refining our knowledge of climate forcings and Earth's response processes," he added.
The new observatory will dramatically improve global carbon dioxide measurements, collecting about 8 million measurements every 16 days for at least two years with the precision, resolution and coverage needed to characterize carbon dioxide's global distribution.
Scientists need these precise measurements because CO2 varies by just 10 parts per million throughout the year on regional to continental scales.
The Orbiting Carbon Observatory's three high-resolution spectrometers spread reflected sunlight into its various colors like a prism.
Each spectrometer focuses on a different, narrow color range, detecting light with the specific colors absorbed by CO2 and molecular oxygen.
The less carbon dioxide present in the atmosphere, the more light the spectrometers detect.
By analyzing the amount of light, scientists can determine relative concentrations of these chemicals.
The data will then be input into computer models of the global atmosphere to quantify carbon dioxide sources and sinks. (ANI)