NASA has revealed two small instruments that will play a crucial role in powering big scientific insights by measuring and studying the Earth’s directed energy from the Sun.
The space agency said that this information will allow scientists to understand how that energy influences our planet’s severe weather, climate change, and other global forces.
Researchers at the US-based University of Colorado’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) developed these two novel instruments — Compact Total Irradiance Monitor (CTIM) and Compact Spectral Irradiance Monitor (CSIM).
NASA said that they will be two of the smallest instruments ever launched into space to study how solar energy affects Earth’s systems.
According to NASA, CTIM will help scientists determine if small satellites could be as effective at measuring total solar irradiance as larger instruments.
However, CSIM will allow scientists to observe solar radiation spectrums with less than 1 per cent uncertainty (SSI), an unprecedented level of accuracy for a small satellite dedicated to observing spectral solar irradiance (SSI).
Together, the two CubeSats represent a significant advancement in our ability to understand the Earth Radiation Budget (ERB) — the amount and types of energy Earth absorb or reflects, as well as thermally emits, back into space, said NASA.
“It’s very important, from the atmospheric chemistry point of view, to determine how much ultraviolet radiation, infrared radiation, and other wavelengths of radiation Earth receives, and how the amounts of each type of radiation changes over time,” said Erik Richard, a Senior Researcher at LASP and principal investigator for CSIM.
NASA may combine CSIM and CTIM into a single, compact satellite payload in the future, allowing scientists to measure both the total solar energy reaching Earth and its individual components using a small constellation of CubeSats.