NASA’s PACE (Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, Ocean Ecosystem) is a planned earth observation satellite with an anticipated launch in 2022. The main objective of PACE is to measure “ocean color for assessing large scale ocean health.” With a polar orbit, PACE will completely circle the Earth every two days. Collecting this data will inform researchers about the health and distribution of phytoplankton, tiny plants, and algae that are essential to the ocean’s food web. As marine plants, these organisms produce chlorophyll. By measuring the ocean’s color, PACE can extract information about the relative abundance of plant cells containing chlorophyll, a green pigment.
PACE will collect more information about the Earth’s oceans and atmosphere as it cycles between collecting biosphere, aerosol, and cloud data as it passes overhead. PACE will also collect aerosol data which will be used to improve our understanding about the Earth’s weather and climate. Aerosols are small particles suspended in the atmosphere. Along with clouds, aerosols can affect how sunlight reaches the Earth. Data from PACE will help researchers understand the complex interactions of aerosols and clouds and how both can affect climate.
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