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NASA's New Satellite Unveils First Data on Ocean Health and Climate Change
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NASA's New Satellite Unveils First Data on Ocean Health and Climate Change
by Clarence Oxford
Los Angeles CA (SPX) Apr 12, 2024

NASA's newest Earth-observing satellite, the Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, ocean Ecosystem (PACE), has begun distributing science-quality data essential for studying ocean health, air quality, and climate change effects. Launched on February 8, PACE underwent extensive in-orbit testing to ensure its instruments function correctly. The public can now access this data through the dedicated portal.

PACE's capabilities include examining microscopic ocean life and airborne particles, enhancing our understanding of fisheries health, algal blooms, air pollution, and wildfire smoke effects. This data will also shed light on the interactions between the ocean and atmosphere under changing climate conditions.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson highlighted the significance of PACE's contributions: "These stunning images are furthering NASA's commitment to protect our home planet," he said. "PACE's observations will give us a better understanding of how our oceans and waterways, and the tiny organisms that call them home, impact Earth. From coastal communities to fisheries, NASA is gathering critical climate data for all people."

Karen St. Germain, NASA Earth Science Division director, underscored the satellite's role in expanding Earth science: "First light from the PACE mission is a major milestone in our ongoing efforts to better understand our changing planet. Earth is a water planet, and yet we know more about the surface of the moon than we do our own oceans. PACE is one of several key missions - including SWOT and our upcoming NISAR mission - that are opening a new age of Earth science," she explained.

The Ocean Color Instrument at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center enables PACE to observe the Earth across multiple wavelengths, identifying various phytoplankton communities that play distinct roles in the ecosystem and carbon cycle. PACE's two multi-angle polarimeters, HARP2 and SPEXone, further enhance atmospheric studies by measuring polarized light reflecting off clouds and aerosols.

Jeremy Werdell, PACE project scientist at NASA Goddard, expressed excitement about the project's capabilities: "We've been dreaming of PACE-like imagery for over two decades. It's surreal to finally see the real thing," he said. "The data from all three instruments are of such high quality that we can start distributing it publicly two months from launch, and I'm proud of our team for making that happen. These data will not only positively impact our everyday lives by informing on air quality and the health of aquatic ecosystems, but also change how we view our home planet over time."

The PACE mission is managed by NASA Goddard, which also constructed the satellite and its main instruments. The Hyper-Angular Rainbow Polarimeter #2 (HARP2) was developed at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and the Spectro-polarimeter for Planetary Exploration (SPEXone) was a collaborative effort by the Netherlands Institute for Space Research and Airbus Defence and Space Netherlands.

Related Links
PACE at Ocean Sciences
Water News - Science, Technology and Politics

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