NASA's New Instrument Showcases Earth's Invisible Shapes and Motion

NASA's New Instrument Showcases Earth's Invisible Shapes and Motion


NASA has developed a new instrument that can render the invisible shapes and motion of atmospheric particles, opening up a new frontier in the study of Earth's atmosphere. The instrument, called the Gulfstream-200 Spectrometer for Ices, Liquids, and Entrained Aerosols (GLISA), has been successfully tested aboard a NASA Gulfstream-200 research aircraft.

Details of the Instrument

GLISA is a sophisticated spectrometer that illuminates particles in the atmosphere with a laser and analyzes the light reflected back to measure particle composition and concentration. It can simultaneously measure the concentration and size of hundreds of thousands of particles per second, allowing researchers to obtain a comprehensive picture of atmospheric particles. This data can include everything from humidity to cloud condensation nuclei to volcanic ash.

How It Works

Atmospheric particles come in various shapes, including spherical, cubic, or irregular, and the way they interact with light provides insight into their size, shape, and composition. This can potentially reveal important details about the processes occurring in the atmosphere.

Testing and Applications

During a recent flight from NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, GLISA was tested under real-world conditions. The instrument performed well, demonstrating its potential to revolutionize the study of Earth's atmosphere.

Looking Ahead

With its successful test performance, GLISA will now be used to study various aspects of the atmosphere, including the formation of clouds and precipitation and the effects of pollution and climate change.


GLISA promises to reshape our understanding of atmospheric composition and improve our ability to predict climate change and other important global processes. It may also provide valuable data for other scientific fields, such as meteorology, climatology, and environmental science. As technology continues to evolve, GLISA-like instruments will undoubtedly become more common and increasingly powerful, allowing us to peek with ever-increasing detail into the invisible shapes and motions of Earth's atmosphere.

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