Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Measuring carbon from space

Greentech Media: NASA plans to launch the Orbiting Carbon Observatory next year to measure carbon dioxide from space. The three spectrometers onboard will measure how carbon dioxide and molecular oxygen absorb sunlight reflected from the Earth's surface. NASA plans to launch a satellite early next year to track carbon dioxide emissions. The launch is part of a data-gathering mission that could affect climate change policies and carbon emissions trading worldwide.

The satellite, Orbiting Carbon Observatory, is scheduled for launch from the Vandenberg Air Force base in California some time after January 2009. "The idea is to fly over the Earth and look down and measure columns of CO2" said David Crisp, who heads the research at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

Researchers hope the OCO will provide data to help answer some questions about how nature wipes clean a large amount of carbon dioxide emitted by human activities. The question they are seeking to answer is: What is the carbon dioxide concentration in different parts of the world and what causes it? The OCO is the first NASA spacecraft dedicated to studying carbon dioxide. It will orbit the Earth at an altitude of 705 kilometers (438 miles) and take carbon dioxide measurements three times a second using three spectrometers….

NASA artist's conception of the OCO satellite

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