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Why is Sentinel 5P crucial for monitoring air pollution

Launched on October 13, 2017, Sentinel 5P is going to be operational very soon. The satellite is dedicated to monitoring air pollution with hi-tech device TROPOMI.

According to the World Health Organization, air pollution is the world’s biggest environmental threat to health causing one in eight deaths around the globe. Ambient air pollution is a reason behind grim health implications and nearly 3 million deaths every year.  But, thanks to satellite technology, we can now monitor quality of the air we breathe.

As part of Copernicus Programme, European Space Agency launched its sixth satellite, Sentinel- 5 Precursor on 13th October 2017 in the row of its sentinel Mission. The satellite is dedicated to monitor atmosphere, air quality and climate change. Sentinel-5P guarantees an unremitting collection of data. Its measurements are extremely important which can prompt legislation and guide governments’ efforts to reduce air pollution to improve the health of the population. The mission will also help scientists to improve knowledge of vital processes related to atmosphere and climate along with the formation of holes in the ozone layer.  In addition, it will also contribute to services such as volcanic ash monitoring for aviation safety.

One of the first images from the Copernicus Sentinel-5P mission shows nitrogen dioxide over Europe on 22 November 2017

The first image by Sentinel- 5P was released in January this year which gave a tantalizing glimpse of environmental hazard. Now the satellite is going to be operational very soon, let’s have a look at how will it generate data depicting air pollution?

TROPOMI will capture air Pollution data

Sentinel -5P carries the ultramodern TROPOMI that stands for TROPOspheric Monitoring Instrument built in collaboration with Netherlands Space Office, Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, Netherlands Institute for Space Research, Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research, Airbus Defence and Space Netherlands and ESA.

TROPOMI is an optical instrument that covers bands from ultraviolet and visible (270–500 nm) to near-infrared (675–775 nm) and shortwave (2305–2385 nm) spectral bands. With this, it means that a wide range of pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide, ozone, formaldehyde, sulphur dioxide, methane and carbon monoxide can be imaged more accurately than ever before. With a resolution as high as 3.5 km to seven kilometers, it has the ability to detect air pollution over individual cities. TROPOMI observes sunlight that is scattered back to space by Earth’s surface and atmosphere, detecting the unique fingerprints of gases in different parts of the spectrum.

ALSO READ: What is the Sentinel Mission?

The device is able to capture air pollution data through its SWIR Spectrometer. The SWIR spectrometer receives light from the eye of the camera. Once received, it directs light towards a slit through a telescope which defines the along-track footprint of the instrument on the ground. Light from the slit is re-collimated, diffracted by the immersed-grating at high-order and finally imaged onto a two-dimensional detector by a high aperture relay lens.

Daily Coverage and free data

Sentinel 5P will cover the entire Earth daily with a swath width of 2600 km. The data will be made free and open, allowing not only scientists to utilize the data but it is also intended that applications that make use of the data will be developed so that governments, NGOs, and businesses can observe pollution levels and devise pollution reduction measures using the monitoring capabilities.