A new satellite is orbiting our planet to track greenhouse gases and pollution

The evidence of pollution on Earth is already pretty evident to those of us living on Earth — at least, for those of us living in large cities or manufacturing hubs. But now we’re going beyond our planet to see just how bad things really are. The European Space Agency (ESA) has just launched the most advanced air-pollution-monitoring satellite in history. Its goal is to map the global distribution of air pollutants in truly novel detail.

On Friday, ESA controllers received the first signal from the Sentinel-5P satellite, which lifted off from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in Russia about at around 5:30 a.m. EDT. The Sentinel-5P, otherwise known as Precursor, is a member of the European Union’s Copernicus program, which is the largest Earth-observation program in the world. And while there are a total of six satellites in orbit as part of this program, Precursor is the first and only to measure the chemistry of our planet’s atmosphere.

“Having Sentinel-5P in orbit will give us daily and global views at our atmosphere with a precision we never had before,” Josef Aschbacher, ESA’s director of Earth-observation programs, said in a statement.

While Precursor isn’t the first satellite to have this important mission, it is the first in quite some time. The only other satellite currently tasked with measuring pollution is NASA’s Aura, which was launched 13 years ago in 2014. And in the time since, quite a few improvements in technology have been made. As Stephen Briggs, senior advisor to the director of ESA’s Earth Observation program, told Space.com, “Sentinel-5P carries an instrument called Tropomi, which is very powerful because it has a very wide swath — 2,600 kilometers wide (1,615 miles). That means that it will give us the view of the whole Earth every day. Every day, we will get measurements of every point on the Earth.”

With Tropomi, which was developed in large part by the Netherlands’ national meteorological agency (KNMI), the satellite will measure several pollutants, including the levels of nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide, which result from fossil fuels, as well as carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, ozone, and greenhouse gas methane.

“Tropomi will make 20 million observations every day, covering the entire globe at a resolution that is 10 times better than we have ever seen before,”  KNMI’s principal investigator Pepijn Veefkind told the BBC. “That allows us to see pollution in cities on a much finer scale. In Rotterdam, for example, we will be able to distinguish the harbour from the city centre; and we will be able to see the pollution in shipping lanes over the oceans.”

Product Review

The MacBook Air plays the oldies we love, but the band is getting old

We’ve waited for a long time for an update to the MacBook Air, and Apple finally delivered one. With a lot of features ported over from the MacBook Pro, is this new laptop what Apple fans have always wanted?
Product Review

Cut cable and keep quality with TiVo's 4K-friendly Bolt OTA DVR

Free over-the-air programming isn’t available in 4K, so why would you want a 4K OTA DVR? We’ll discuss what makes the new TiVo Bolt OTA a viable choice for cord-cutters with 4K UHD TVs who want to get ahead of the game.
Emerging Tech

Ancient continent discovered beneath the ice of Antarctica

Antarctica could be hiding the remains of a long-lost continent. Scientists created a 3D map of the crust beneath the Antarctic ice sheet which shows a similarity to the crust in Australia and India, suggesting they used to be joined.
Photography

Get your Sagan on with 60 awe-inspiring photos of the final frontier

Few things instill a sense of wonder quite like the final frontier. The best space photos show off the beauty of Earth, our solar system, and the far corners of the universe. Here are our current favorites.
Emerging Tech

Watch this lab-grown heart tissue beat just like the real thing

A team of researchers in Germany have used stem cells to create a lab-grown human heart tissue which actually beats, as well as responding to drugs in the same way as the real thing.
Emerging Tech

Shipping crate filled with 3D-printing robots may be the future of construction

Autodesk has created a robot-filled shipping container which may represent the future of construction work. The crate contains two robots able to 3D print custom components for building sites.
Emerging Tech

Michigan’s former transportation chief has some advice for wannabe smart cities

After 31 years as Michigan’s transportation director, Kirk Steudle has seen it all, particularly with smart city projects. He spoke with Digital Trends recently about what makes smart cities work, and offers advice along the way.
Emerging Tech

Sticking these tiny needles in your eye may help fight blindness

An eye patch covered in tiny needles sounds like a torture device. In fact, it's a potential new medical treatment for eye diseases like glaucoma and macular degeneration. Here's how it works.
Emerging Tech

Bottle-flipping robots may be the most millennial thing we’ve ever seen

Until drones start vaping, you're unlikely to see anything more millennial than a recent contest in Japan in which robots competed to pull off some seriously impressive bottle-flipping feats.
Emerging Tech

New simulation shows how Elon Musk’s internet satellite network might work

Elon Musk has the dream of building a network for conveying internet traffic via thousands of satellites. A new simulation created by a computer scientist looks at how feasible the idea is.
Cars

Car parts maker ZF is using drones to deliver components to its factories

ZF recently became the first entity in Germany to receive approval to use drones to deliver spare parts, and the company now uses them to deliver parts from its central warehouses to its workshops.
Emerging Tech

This fully autonomous $400 drone folds like a book, follows you like a paparrazzo

Having a drone that could follow you everywhere while taking high-quality images without crashing has been a flight of fantasy. With ZeroZero's Hover 2, not only can you have a fully autonomous 4K selfie drone, you can have it for $400.
Emerging Tech

These Alexa-stuffed retro phones don’t listen until you take them off the hook

Looking for an Amazon Echo with a cool vintage touch? Los Angeles-based Grain Design is taking old, non-working antique phones and transforming them into amazing Alexa smart speakers.
Smart Home

This alarm clock uses targeted light and sound to wake you, but not your partner

The Wake v2 isn't like your typical bedside alarm. Instead, it wakes you by shining a soft light directly into your face, thereby not disturbing the person sharing a bed with you. Pretty smart, huh?