NASA launches instrument to better measure air pollution in America

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NASA has launched an instrument into space that should help better measure air quality over North America. This instrument must map out the distribution of harmful substances more accurately than was previously possible.

The instrument, called Tempo, was launched into space on Friday aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. According to NASA the launch went according to plan. The intention is that Tempo can start measuring air quality around June.

The device is located at an altitude of 35,000 kilometers and is attached to a geostationary satellite. It rotates with the earth, so that Tempo always has a view of North America. Every hour, Tempo measures the air quality with an accuracy of about ten square kilometers. This is a major advancement compared to current technologies, which have an accuracy of more than a hundred square kilometers in the US, according to NASA.

This should enable citizens to be better warned in the event of poor air quality, says the space company. It should also be possible to better study the effects of lightning on the ozone layer, the displacement of pollution by forest fires and volcanoes and the effects of fertilization, among other things.

Tempo will be part of a constellation of satellites that together can measure the air quality of the entire northern hemisphere. It is planned to launch an instrument in 2024 that will make similar accurate measurements for Europe and North Africa, called the Sentinel-4. Earlier, a satellite, Gems, was sent into space to achieve this for South Korea.

The constellation of satellites that measure the air quality of the northern hemisphere

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