Japan is readying the launch of the Greenhouse Gases Observing Satellite (GOSAT), which is scheduled for launch on Jan. 21. The satellite will record greenhouse gas emissions around the globe in more than 56,000 locations, augmenting the roughly 280 current terrestrial observation points.The satellite has been nicknamed “Ibuki,” the Japanese word for breathe, because of its ability to monitor the intake and output of carbon dioxide around the globe.
The satellite uses thermal and near infrared sensors for carbon observation. The infrared sensor observes light emitted from the sun and then reflected from the ground to determine the light absorption of gases such as CO2 and methane. Different gases absorb different wavelengths, and the amount of infrared light absorbed is proportional to the density of the gases. An auxiliary sensor observes clouds and aerosols, which help calibrate measurements from the infrared sensor, since clouds reflect light and throw off the measurements from the infrared sensor. The combination of the two sensors ensures that only measurements where clouds aren’t present are calculated and stored.
GOSAT is the first of four Japanese satellites that are part of the broader Global Earth-Observation System of Systems (GEOSS). Additional satellites include, Global Change Observation Mission (GCOM), Global Precipitation Measurement Mission (GPM), and Earth, Clouds, Aerosols, and Radiation Explorer (EarthCARE).