- NASA released test scans from TEMPO, a new Earth-orbiting instrument that measures pollution levels.
- It takes hourly scans of North America, tracking air pollutant levels down to the neighborhood.
- The instrument is the first of its kind and will improve research on rush-hour traffic pollution.
As the climate crisis fuels a boiling summer — July was the hottest month on record — the dangers of air pollution are at the front of many minds.
NASA has now revealed the first images from a new instrument launched alongside the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory that can track pollution levels with unprecedented precision.
Thanks to the Tropospheric Emissions: Monitoring of Pollution instrument, called TEMPO, NASA can now track air pollution across North America with enough detail to pinpoint pollutant levels in exact neighborhoods, according to a NASA press release.
NASA has released preliminary scans from the instrument taken during a trial from July 31 to August 2. It will reach full operation in October.
The instrument is the first of its kind, according to NASA officials.
First launched in April on a SpaceX rocket, TEMPO now orbits the Earth and takes hourly scans of North America while measuring levels of ozone, nitrogen dioxide, and other gases, according to Kelly Chance, a senior physicist at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and TEMPO principal investigator.
“There are already almost 50 science studies being planned that are based around this new way to collect data,” Chance said in the press release.
TEMPO will be especially helpful for improving studies on rush-hour traffic pollution, according to researchers.
“We are excited to see the initial data from the TEMPO instrument and that the performance is as good as we could have imagined now that it is operating in space,” Kevin Daugherty, TEMPO project manager, said in the press release. “We look forward to completing commissioning of the instrument and then starting science research.”