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March 26, 2012

Northrop Grumman-built CERES sensor makes ‘first light’ observation

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Image courtesy NASA Langley Research Center
CERES first images show heat energy radiated in shades of yellow, red, blue and white. The brightest-yellow areas are the hottest and are emitting the most energy out to space, while the dark blue areas and the bright white clouds are much colder, emitting the least energy. Increasing temperature, decreasing water vapor, and decreasing clouds will all tend to increase the ability of Earth to shed heat out to space.

REDONDO BEACH, Calif. – Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System, the Northrop Grumman-built instrument aboard NASA’s Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership satellite, was activated and has delivered its first images.

The CERES model on Suomi NPP is known as Flight Model 5 (FM5). It is the sixth CERES instrument to be launched on a variety of NASA platforms which include the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM), Earth Observing System (EOS) TERRA, and EOS AQUA. TERRA and AQUA each carry two CERES instruments.

“Our CERES team is very proud to see the CERES instrument on Suomi NPP take its place on orbit with its five predecessors,” said Ravi Narasimhan, CERES program manager, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems. “We enjoyed the intense effort to prepare, calibrate and deliver the instrument to the Suomi NPP spacecraft as well as our ongoing 27-year collaboration with the NASA Langley Research Center project team.”

CERES instruments are broadband radiometers that measure the amount of reflected sunlight and thermal energy emitted by the Earth and its atmosphere.

Image courtesy NASA Langley Research Center

CERES first images show heat energy radiated in shades of yellow, red, blue and white. The brightest-yellow areas are the hottest and are emitting the most energy out to space, while the dark blue areas and the bright white clouds are much colder, emitting the least energy. Increasing temperature, decreasing water vapor, and decreasing clouds will all tend to increase the ability of Earth to shed heat out to space.

“Northrop Grumman CERES instruments have a critical role in collecting long-term data records that will help scientists the world over monitor the Earth’s changing climate,” said Mark Folkman, director, sensor products, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems. “The exquisite calibration of the CERES instruments preserves the data continuity that is essential for monitoring the Earth environment over long periods of time.”

CERES allows scientists to collect data to monitor the temperature of the planet and validate models that calculate the effect of clouds in driving planetary heating or cooling. Science teams around the world use CERES data to understand the Earth’s radiation budget which helps compute global temperature changes over the long term. These temperature changes can be enough to increase or shrink arable land, lengthen growing seasons and enlarge cold zones or deserts.

CERES FM5 will carry forward the long-term Earth radiation budget measurements for the next several years. The CERES Flight Model 6 instrument, currently in final testing, will be delivered in June as the first completed instrument for the next-generation of operational polar-orbiting environmental satellites called the Joint Polar Satellite System.

Maintaining the accuracy of the long-term data record started in the early 1980s requires overlap between CERES instruments on orbit. It was important that FM5 overlap the other CERES instruments on the EOS platforms, which are well beyond their design life, and that FM6 launches in time to overlap with FM5.

 




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