After being installed on the outside of the International Space Station, NASA’s Source of Mineral Dust Investigation (EMIT) mission provided its first view of Earth. An important moment called “first light” took place at 7:51 p.m. PDT (10:51 p.m. EDT) on July 27 when the space station passed over Western Australia.
Developed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, EMIT is focused on mapping the composition of Earth’s mineral dust dry areas to better understand how dust affects climate heating and cooling. The instrument works by measuring hundreds of wavelengths of light reflected from materials on Earth. Different substances reflect differently wavelengths of lightcreating a kind of spectral fingerprint that, when collected by an imaging spectrometer and analyzed by researchers, reveals what they’re made of.
Ground controllers used the Canadarm2 robotic arm of space station to remove the EMIT from a Dragon spacecraft and install it on the outside of the station, a process that began on July 22 and took more than 40 hours. Engineers powered up the instrument on July 24 and cooled it to operating temperature over the next 72 hours.
The EMIT team then collected the instrument’s first measurements, creating something called an image cube. The image on the front of the cube shows a mix of materials in Western Australia, including exposed soil (brown), vegetation (dark green), agricultural fields (light green), small river and clouds. The colors of the rainbow extending across the main body of the cube are the spectral fingerprints of the corresponding spots in the foreground image.
While the EMIT instrument can measure the spectral signature of light from such materials as vegetation, rocks, snow and ice, and man-made surfaces, its main mission, starting in August, will be to collect measurements of 10 important surface minerals (hematite, calcite , dolomite and gypsum, for example) in the dry, dust-producing regions of Africa, Asia, North and South America and Australia.
The spectral fingerprints of dust minerals allow scientists to determine its composition. While dark, iron-rich particles strongly absorb solar energy, light clays reflect it. Scientists currently do not know whether the mineral dust has a cumulative heating or cooling effect on the planet. The full spectral fingerprints EMIT is collecting will help answer this question.
EMIT was developed at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which is operated for the agency by Caltech in Pasadena, California. It launched aboard a SpaceX Dragon supply spacecraft carrying more than 5,800 pounds of science experiments, crew supplies and other cargo from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on July 14. Data from the instrument will be delivered to NASA’s Distributed Active Archives Center (DAAC) for use by other researchers and the public.
Quote: NASA’s Mineral Dust Detector Begins Collecting Data (2022, July 30) Retrieved July 31, 2022, from https://phys.org/news/2022-07-nasa-mineral-detector.html
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