KEY POINTS

  • The ESA approved a new mission to study climate change
  • The new mission will measure Earth's reflectivity from space
  • Data from the mission will serve as the standard for future missions

The European Space Agency (ESA) has approved a new mission that aims to measure the climate change happening on Earth. Its main objective will be to provide an accurate measurement of light being reflected off of Earth.

Known as Traceable Radiometry Underpinning Terrestrial- and Helio-Studies (TRUTHS), the mission was approved by the ESA following a meeting with scientists and engineers from its member states.

The scientific aspect of the mission will be handled by Britain’s National Physical Laboratory (NPL), which plans to equip the TRUTHS satellite with an instrument known as a cryogenic radiometer. This device is used to accurately measure the intensity of a light source.

Using this instrument along with a hyperspectral camera, TRUTHS will measure how much light is being reflected from Earth’s surface. This includes the planet’s oceans, deserts, snowfields and forests.

Since the data that will be gathered by TRUTHS will be the first of its kind, it will serve as the standard for Earth’s reflectivity. It can be used and compared with new data that will be collected in future missions 10 to 15 years from now.

According to scientists, the information that will be collected by TRUTHS can help policy makers in enacting plans and regulations aimed at addressing environmental issues.

By getting a clear idea by how much light is being reflected from Earth, scientists will be able to monitor the planet’s climate fingerprint. Specifically, they will be able to measure the heat radiating from the planet. Future missions can then use TRUTHS’ data to check changes in the Earth’s climate.

“By doing that we'll be able to detect subtle changes much earlier than we can with our current observing system,” Professor Nigel Fox of NPL said in a statement according to BBC.

“This will allow us to constrain and test the climate forecast models,” he continued. “So we'll know earlier whether the predicted temperatures that the models are giving us are consistent or not with the observations.”

The TRUTHS mission does not yet have an exact launch date, but officials from the ESA’s member states are planning to deploy it sometime in 2026.