US: NASA's first spacecraft Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) dedicated to studying atmospheric carbon dioxide has moved into its final operating orbit and delivered its first science data.
OCO-2 was launched in July 2. The OCO-2 team collected "first light" test data on August 6 as the observatory flew over central Papua New Guinea.
As OCO-2 flies over Earth's sunlit hemisphere, each spectrometer collects a "frame" three times each second, for a total of about 9,000 frames from each orbit. Each frame is divided into eight spectra, or chemical signatures, that record the amount of molecular oxygen or carbon dioxide over adjacent ground footprints. Each footprint is about 1.3 miles (2.25 kilometres) long and a few hundred yards (metres) wide. When displayed as an image, the eight spectra appear like bar codes — bright bands of light broken by sharp dark lines. The dark lines indicate absorption by molecular oxygen or carbon dioxide.
The data was sent from OCO-2 to a ground station in Alaska, before being processed finally at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
Randy Pollock, OCO-2 chief architect and calibration lead said, " "The initial data from OCO-2 appear exactly as expected — the spectral lines are well resolved, sharp and deep."
The team will begin delivering calibrated OCO-2 spectra data and estimates of carbon dioxide to the Goddard center for distribution in early 2015.