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Bios scientists working with Nasa on satellite project

Nasa and SpaceX technicians encapsulate Nasa’s Pace spacecraft in SpaceX’s Falcon 9 payload fairings at the Astrotech Space Operations Facility in Florida (Photograph by Denny Henry/Nasa Goddard)

Bermudian-based scientists have been tasked with measuring the accuracy of satellite systems used to track environmental changes to the ocean.

Researchers at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences have won grants to check the accuracy of findings from a mission launched recently by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

According to an article in Bios Currents newsletter, Nasa's Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud Ocean Ecosystem satellite mission took off from the Kennedy Space Centre in February.

The website for the project said: “Pace's data will help us better understand how the ocean and atmosphere exchange carbon dioxide. In addition, it will reveal how aerosols might fuel phytoplankton growth in the surface ocean.

“Novel uses of Pace data will benefit our economy and society. For example, it will help identify the extent and duration of harmful algal blooms.

“Pace will extend and expand Nasa’s long-term observations of our living planet. By doing so, it will take Earth's pulse in new ways for decades to come.”

The Bios newsletter said: “Pace will provide measurements enabling prediction of ‘boom-bust’ cycles of fisheries, appearance of harmful algae and other factors that affect commercial and recreational industries.

“The mission also supports the Biden Administration’s Ocean Policy Committee Ocean Climate Plan priorities and addresses marine sustainability concerns identified by the World Resources Institute and United Nations.”

Nasa awarded Arizona State University/Bios grants to lead two research teams as part of the Pace validation process last year.

Associate scientists Amy Maas and Leo Blanco Bercial will lead research focused on counting and characterising plankton on the ocean surface, while senior scientist Eric Hochberg’s project involves measuring light entering and leaving the ocean surface.

Assistant scientist Rod Johnson will serve as co-investigator on both projects, integrating the Pace work into ASU Bios broader Bermuda Atlantic Time-series Study efforts.

Dr Mass said: “This work is both exciting and incredibly important because it allows us to ensure that our new measurements and old measurements are directly comparable.

“At the same time, it is using new and improved technology — broadband light measurements from the satellite and a modern flow-through microscopic instrument that takes high-speed images of individual phytoplankton, which combined will give us new, more detailed insight into the abundance and diversity of the tiny microorganisms that support life on this planet.”

Pace is designed to use a combination of an ocean colour instrument, which measures the intensity of light over the electromagnetic spectrum, and multi-angle polarimeters, which measure how the oscillation of sunlight is changed by clouds, aerosols and the ocean.

Dr Blanco Bercial said: “Apart from the obvious excitement related to the Pace programme, I am really looking forward to getting the data from the new instruments.

“We will be able to get several years of these measurements, which will merge the gap between two of the main plankton-related outputs from the programme.

“Measuring phytoplankton, but also some non-photosynthetic components of the community that have been historically neglected, is for me an unexplored treasure with immense potential.”

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Published March 04, 2024 at 7:53 am (Updated March 04, 2024 at 8:50 am)

Bios scientists working with Nasa on satellite project

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