A satellite imagery revealed invisible gases that pollute the air

A satellite imagery revealed invisible gases that pollute the air

A satellite called Sentinel-5p, by the Copernicus, was operational since early this year. As soon as it was sent, it started to return the high-resolution maps of air polluting gases that are otherwise invisible to the human eye.

Copernicus is the European Union’s Earth Observation Program that overlooks the planet Earth and its environment for greater benefit of us. One of its objectives is to offer information services based on satellite Earth Observation and in situ (non-space) data.

The images sent by the scientist on this mission initially showed plumes of nitrogen dioxide flowing from power plant as well as highly populated major cities of Europe. This Sentinel-5P is the first Copernicus satellite that works to monitor the atmospheric chemistry. It carries a special instrument called Tropom. It is a spectrometer that observes the reflected sunlight from the Earth and analyzes it for different colours.

By order, Sentinel-5P is the 6th in a constellation of satellites that are a part of this larger project. This satellite is able to produce daily global maps of gasses that are polluting the air. This increased pollution adds a risk factor to many people’s health. That is why it is necessary to understand what is in the air, causing all these problems.

The sentinel-5P is particularly measuring the global levels of trace gases that are;

  • ozone (O3)
  • sulfur dioxide (SO2)
  • nitrogen dioxide (NO2)
  • carbon monoxide (CO)
  • methane (CH4)
  • formaldehyde (HCHO)
  • and aerosols

All of these gases are a part of Earth’s atmosphere and directly affect the health. These gases also play a part in climate change.

The stratosphere- a zone of atmosphere protects the humans from UV radiations of the sun. Gases like sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and carbon monoxide are produced when fossils are burned. Any anyone inhales these gases; they may affect the oxygen entering to the bloodstream directly.

Methane is one of the gases that is produced during the burning of fuels. It is also produced when organic materials are left for decomposition at landfill sites. Some amount of methane is generated during the digestion of cattle. This gas not only causes respiratory problems but also works as a greenhouse gas, affecting the climate change.

Other than these trace gases, Sentinel-5P will also monitor aerosol particles produced during the combustion of fuels, forest fires, desert dust or volcanic eruptions. Aerosols affect the quality of air and are a major climatic pollutant.

More aspects of this mission through Sentinel-5P are that it can measure the pollution that is emitted by any particular city or parts of a city. It is necessary because of most of the statistical information in general. It is proposed that it should be area-wise, including industrial sites, population density, and traffic. It will help to control the pollutants and thus the environment this way.

Not many people know but the air pollution kills seven million people every year, as per World Health Organization. That is why it is important to monitor the air.

Data generated by the satellite

All data from the satellite is free of charge and open to anyone. Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service will use this data to generate forecasts daily. This new mission will open opportunities businessmen. Both owners of large industries and small-scale start-ups will get a benefit.

For now, the data will help in analyzing the air quality. Its atmospheric applications include updated air quality information and high UV alerts via mobile applications or text messages to the natives.

By using the ability of satellites like Sentinel-5P are a best to get detailed visualizations of air pollution. It may help in developing strategies to tackle air pollution, especially in big, industrial cities.

Sources
  • http://www.copernicus.eu/main/overview
  • http://breathelife2030.org/
  • https://www.unenvironment.org/news-and-stories/story/invisible-air-polluting-gases-revealed-satellite-imagery

The author is a Medical Microbiologist and a healthcare writer. She is a post-graduate of Medical Microbiology and Immunology. She covers all content on health and wellness including weight loss, nutrition, and general health.

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