New CubeSat’s First Light Shows Clouds and Aerosols

Tuesday, August 4, 2020 - 10:50 in Astronomy & Space

PROJECT Hyper-Angular Rainbow Polarimeter (HARP) SNAPSHOT HARP aims to help identify air pollution, aerosols and clouds. The Hyper-Angular Rainbow Polarimeter’s measurements help us better understand how clouds and aerosols impact weather, climate, and air quality. The Hyper-Angular Rainbow Polarimeter (HARP) CubeSat achieved “first light” on April 16, 2020. The tiny satellite sent back its very first image over Europe with bright splashes of colors labeling clouds and aerosols, tiny particles in the atmosphere. HARP filters light into four wavelengths and uses a prism to rotate that light to three polarization angles. Just as polarized sunglasses help block bright light to help you see when it’s sunny, HARP can block certain wavelengths and make observations from many angles. Its images reveal what is hidden to the naked eye: amounts and types of aerosols as well as the size of water droplets and ice particles inside clouds. “Every time HARP flies over a region, we see that region from...

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