Earth Observation Mission News
NASA's TSIS-1 keeps an eye on Sun's power over ozone
21 November 2017
High in the atmosphere, above weather systems, is a layer of ozone gas. Ozone is Earth's natural sunscreen, absorbing the Sun's most harmful ultraviolet radiation and protecting living things below. But ozone is vulnerable to certain gases made by humans that reach the upper atmosphere. Once there, they react in the presence of sunlight to destroy ozone molecules.
Currently, several NASA and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) satellites track the amount of ozone in the upper atmosphere and the solar energy that drives the photochemistry that creates and destroys ozone. NASA is now ready to launch a new instrument to the International Space Station that will provide the most accurate measurements ever made of sunlight as seen from above Earth's atmosphere — an important component for evaluating the long-term effects of ozone-destroying chemistry. The Total and Spectral solar Irradiance Sensor (TSIS-1) will measure the total amount of sunlight that reaches the top of Earth's atmosphere and how that light is distributed between different wavelengths, including ultraviolet wavelengths that we cannot sense with our eyes, but are felt by our skin and harmful to our DNA.
Image credit: NASA / LASP - TSIS-1 will be affixed to the International Space Station in December 2017 TSIS-1 operates like a sun flower: it follows the Sun, from the ISS sunrise to its sunset, which happens every 90 minutes. At sunset, it rewinds, recalibrates and waits for the next sunset.