PACE Satellite in Orbit
[06-Dec-18] In terms of life on Earth, color describes more than simply how features look. In many cases color serves as a proxy for biological processes. When studying ocean biology, colors count in a big way.
Click image to view movie. Credit: NASA Scientific Visualization Studio
NASA's PACE mission (Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, ocean Ecosystem) has been conceived principally as a way to measure ocean color for assessing large scale ocean health. These measurements will provide data to determine the distribution of phytoplankton, tiny plants and algae that sustain the marine food web. A simple way to think about this is the more "green" that is visible from space, the more prevalent are plant cells containing chlorophyll, an essential green pigment responsible for energy-producing photosynthesis in plants. Phytoplankton populations are fundamental to understanding the overall health of the ocean food web, as well as a wide range of related processes.
PACE will be able to see other colors too – a broad range of color, in fact, stretching beyond the bounds of visible light into both ultraviolet as well as infrared. PACE will also be able to make measurements of aerosols in the atmosphere, essential for scientists to improve our understanding of and our ability to forecast weather and climate.
PACE continues a more than 20 year legacy of ocean color measurements, providing the scientific community with a long time series of data. That legacy enables better assessments of long term trends about complex processes on Earth.
More details about PACE instruments can be found on the Mission Overview.