Starr, who has worked in the field leading airborne science campaigns since 1986, will oversee the polarimeter instrument teams as PODEX project scientist. He spoke with NASA's Earth Science News Team's Kathryn Hansen about the experiment and how it could reshape the next generation of atmospheric science.
Question (Q): What is a polarimeter?
Answer (A):Traditional radiometers measure radiation intensity over a particular range of wavelengths, which are converted into products such as images of Earth's surface, clouds and aerosols. Launch of radiometers aboard NASA's Terra satellite in 1999 is, in part, what got people jazzed up about aerosols we realized how they're blowing around the planet, then we realized the potential significance of their impact on health, clouds, Earth's radiation budget and precipitation.
Polarimeters sensors that detect the polarization of light work in a similar way, but have the potential to provide more information about particles, such as shape and size.
Q: Why does this approach work?
A: It works because the polarization of reflected sunlight is sensitive to what it hits.
Incoming sunlight is unpolarized, which means that the planes of vibration of the light waves are randomly oriented. When the sunlight interacts with Earth's atmosphere or surface, the light waves can vibrate in preferred orientations. For example, interaction with highly structured particles or objects things like industrial soot particles, dust, vegetation, or ice crystals in a cloud can dramat
|Contact: Kathryn Hansen|
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center