Launched last year in October, the first images of the ESA maneuvered Sentinel-5P were recently made public during a briefing at the DLR German Aerospace Center in December. The first Sentinel 5P air pollution images “offer a tantalizing glimpse” of what it has in store for us, according to Josef Aschbacher, ESA’s director of Earth observation programs. The sixth satellite in ESA’s Sentinel constellation, Sentinel-5P is designed to scan the Earth environment at a higher resolution.
The satellite comes with an advanced atmosphere-monitoring system that will observe the Earth environment in a resolution that is six times better than what is available right now. Solely designed for tracking gases like nitrogen dioxide, ozone, formaldehyde, sulfur dioxide, methane, and carbon dioxide, the Sentinel-5P can play a pivotal role in maintaining the air quality and climate control on earth.
Featuring a multi spectral imaging spectrometer – Tropomi – the Sentinel-5P can monitor air quality and climate by measuring atmospheric trace gases and aerosols as well as cloud distributions. Tropomi can also scan the presence of pollutants present in our planet’s atmosphere with an exceptional granularity. Moreover, it can track pollution emissions from individual cities and neighborhoods.
The first images of the satellite showed high levels of air pollutants over parts of Asia, Africa, and South America. In the first images, the satellite captured ash spewing from the Mount Agung volcano on Bali, Indonesia. Some of the first data have been used to create a global map of carbon monoxide.
On the other hand, it showed nitrogen dioxide over Europe that was largely caused by traffic and the combustion of fossil fuel in industrial processes. The high concentrations of this air pollutant can be seen over parts of the Netherlands, the Ruhr area in western Germany, the Po Valley in Italy and over parts of Spain. Sentinel-5P also reveals high levels of pollution from power plants in India.
Launched from Russia on 13 October, it is the first satellite that is dedicated to monitoring the atmosphere. The satellite will become fully operational within a year. Until then, the scientists will use the images to verify and calibrate the satellite as they continue to fully commission the spacecraft, which is expected to become fully operational a year from now. Once operational, the satellite will release data about 3 hours after they are collected.
Data gathered from the Sentinel-5P “will be used to issue forecasts, and will ultimately be valuable for helping to put appropriate mitigation policies in place,” said Aschbacher.
On the other hand, Stefan Dech, Director of DLR’s Earth Observation Center, said, “These first images are astonishing, especially given the satellite is still in the early stages of being commissioned for operations. He added, “The satellite’s Tropomi instrument promised to offer images of pollutants in higher resolution than ever before, and it’s certainly living up to its promise.”
Expected to provide daily global gas measurements at wavelengths ranging from the ultraviolet to shortwave infrared, the spacecraft provides the image resolution as fine as 7 × 3.5 kilometers.
As well as offering unprecedented detail, the mission has a swath width of 2600 km, which allows the whole planet to be mapped every 24 hours.