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NASA’s HALO identifies powerful Greenhouse Gases

Image Courtesy: NASA

Governments and environmental agencies have started looking for alternative ways to reduce greenhouse emissions. Research scientists have indicated the trends in global warming since the mid-20th century to the human development of the greenhouse gases. This basically means the heat that affects the atmosphere coming from the Earth towards the space.

Research scientists at NASA‘s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia have managed to build a new instrument that can measure water vapour and other floating particles in the atmosphere. The new data that would be generated from this new device will check the accuracy of the measurements coming from the satellites, thus improving weather and climate forecasts.

The instrument is called High Altitude Lidar Observatory (HALO). It uses light and ranges (LiDAR). It works by shooting a thin laser beam through the atmosphere. The most powerful greenhouse gas present in the atmosphere is water vapour. It plays a role of warming the air from the heat coming from the Earth, it also cools by forming bright clouds bound to help scientists in their research.

What are HALO and DAWN instruments?

HALO is a modular instrument allowing research scientists to easily measure either water vapour or methane. The space agency combined HALO with another funded instrument called Doppler Aerosol Wind Lidar (DAWN) which measures both speed and direction.

Both HALO and DAWN assist in authenticating data collected by the Atmospheric Dynamics Mission Aeolus (ADM-Aeolus) LiDAR instrument. ESA (European Space Agency) satellite is capable of measuring wind speeds and cloud shapes gllobally.

HALO made its debut mission over the Pacific Ocean on 15th April, 2019 on-board DC-8 Airborne Science Laboratory from Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California. The dust data would be used to authenticate the satellite. Water vapour quantities are not significant to this mission.

ADM-Aeolus was the first satellite that was launched on 22nd August, 2018 from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana that was able to shape wind speeds globally from space collecting dust data.

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Employing innovative technology

Another technology called Differential Absorption LiDAR (DIAL) uses sophisticated lasers by Fibertek Inc. These lasers are the heart of the HALO system as HALO amalgamates new laser and receiver technology in a rather more compact format. HALO is only 5% of the volume and 20% is the weight of the Lidar Atmospheric Sensing Experiment (LASE), a 25 year old technology. NASA was able to measure water vapour using LASE, even though it was not economical.

HALO is a rather much smaller tool that can be used to measure methane, which is a powerful greenhouse gas. In 2018, the HALO team revealed its methane and vaporizer mechanism through a series of over 100 flight hours that were a part of the Long Island Sound Tropospheric Ozone Study (LISTOS).

It has taken more than three years to develop HALO technology. In order to combine U.S and European assets together, HALO is planning to fly on NASA DC-8 next year out of Cape Verde on the east coast of Africa. A combined data from not only HALO but also from other profiling instruments will assist scientists answer some of the most imperative questions on cycling of dust.

Also Read: Why NASA is vital for fighting global warming and climate change