NASA’s Metal Dust Detector Begins Collecting Data

This image shows the first measurements taken by EMIT on July 27, 2022, as it passed over Western Australia. The image in the foreground of the cube shows a mixture of materials in Western Australia, including bare soil (brown), vegetation (dark green), agricultural fields (light green), a small river, and clouds. The rainbow colors extending across the main part of the cube are the spectral imprints of the corresponding spots in the foreground image. The graph on the right shows spectral fingerprints of a soil, vegetation, and river sample from the image cube. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Installed on the outer surface of the International Space Station, NASA’s Surface Mineral Dust Investigation Mission (EMIT) has provided its first view of Earth. The achievement, called “First Light,” occurred at 7:51 PM PT (10:51 PM EDT) on July 27 as the space station passed over Western Australia.

Developed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, EMIT focuses on mapping the mineral dust composition of Earth’s arid regions to better understand how dust affects climate heating and cooling. The instrument works by measuring hundreds of wavelengths of light reflected from materials on Earth. Different materials reflect different wavelengths of light, producing a kind of spectral fingerprint that, when collected by an imaging spectrometer and analyzed by researchers, reveals its components.






An animation depicting the installation of EMIT on the International Space Station (ISS). credit: NASA

Ground controllers used the space station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm to remove EMIT from the Dragon spacecraft and install it on the station’s exterior, a process that began on July 22 and took more than 40 hours. Engineers turned on the device on July 24 and cooled it to operating temperature for the next 72 hours.

The EMIT team then collected the first measurements of the instrument, creating something called an image cube. The image in the foreground of the cube shows a mixture of materials in Western Australia, including bare soil (brown), vegetation (dark green), agricultural fields (light green), a small river, and clouds. The rainbow colors extending across the main part of the cube are the spectral imprints of the corresponding spots in the foreground image.






This video shows the International Space Station’s Candarm2 robotic arm maneuvering NASA’s EMIT mission on the station’s exterior. Extraction from the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft began around 5:15 PM PDT on July 22 and completed at 10:15 AM PDT on July 24. Parts of the installation were deleted, while others were sped up. credit: NASA

While the EMIT instrument can measure the spectral signature of light from materials such as vegetation, rocks, snow, ice and man-made surfaces, its primary task, starting in August, will be to collect measurements of 10 important surface minerals (hematite, calcite, dolomite and gypsum, for example) In arid, dust-producing regions of Africa, Asia, North and South America, and Australia.

The spectral fingerprints of dust minerals allow scientists to determine their composition. While dark iron-rich particles strongly absorb the sun’s energy, light-colored clay reflects it. Currently, scientists do not know whether mineral dust has a cumulative heating or cooling effect on the planet. The full spectral fingerprints collected by EMIT will help answer this question.

NASA's Mineral Dust Detector Begins Collecting Data

The line graph shows the spectral signatures of the soil, vegetation, and river. Radiation refers to the amount of each wavelength of light (in nanometers) that is reflected from a substance. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

EMIT was developed at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which is operated by the agency’s Caltech in Pasadena, California. It was launched aboard a SpaceX Dragon resupply spacecraft carrying more than 5,800 pounds of science experiments, crew supplies and other cargo from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on July 14. DAAC) for use by other researchers and the public.


NASA’s New Metal Dust Detector Is Ready For Launch


more information:
earth.jpl.nasa.gov/emit/

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