CTIM’s radiation detector uses a new carbon nanotube material that absorbs 99.995% of incident light; This makes it ideal for measuring total solar radiation
NASA has launched a novel instrument the size of a shoebox to measure all of the Sun’s ground-directed energy and help scientists understand how that energy affects severe weather, climate change and other global forces on our planet .
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) said the Compact Total Irradiance Monitor (CTIM) is the smallest satellite ever sent to observe the sum of all solar energy the Earth receives from the Sun — also known as ” total solar radiation”.
CTIM was launched Thursday (June 30) aboard STP-28A, a Space Force mission operated by Virgin Orbit. Data collection begins on July 30th.
Once scientists unfold CTIM’s solar panels and examine each of its subsystems, they will activate CTIM. It’s a delicate process that requires care and the utmost care, NASA said.
What is sun exposure?
Solar irradiance is the light energy emitted by the entire disk of the sun as measured on Earth. It looks at the sun more like a star than like an image. According to NASA, spectral solar irradiance is a measure of the brightness of the entire Sun at one wavelength of light.
“Total solar irradiance (TSI) is a major component of the Earth’s radiation budget, which tracks the balance between incoming and outgoing solar energy. Increased amounts of greenhouse gases released by human activities such as burning fossil fuels trap increased amounts of solar energy in the Earth’s atmosphere. This increased energy is raising global temperatures and changing Earth’s climate, which in turn is driving things like sea level rise and severe weather,” NASA said.
“By far the dominant energy input for the Earth’s climate comes from the sun. It’s important input for predictive models that predict how Earth’s climate might change over time,” said Dave Harber, principal investigator at the University of Colorado, Boulder, Atmospheric and Space Physics Laboratory (LASP) and principal investigator for CTIM.
What is CTIM?
CTIM is a 6U CubeSat with eight channels. CTIM is lighter and more compact and features several improvements over the original Total Irradiance Monitor (TIM) design. In particular, CTIM’s novel Vertically Aligned Carbon Nanotube (VACNT) bolometers represent a significant milestone in the quest for lightweight components for CubeSat-compatible instruments, NASA said.
These silicon-based bolometers will drastically reduce the weight of the CTIM CubeSat without compromising its ability to measure total solar irradiance.
CTIM is a prototype. Its flight demonstration will help scientists determine whether small satellites could be as effective at measuring total solar irradiance as larger instruments, such as the Total Irradiance Monitor (TIM) instrument carried on board the completed SORCE mission and the ongoing TSIS‑1 mission used in International Space Station. If successful, the prototype will advance the approaches for future instruments.
CTIM’s radiation detector uses a new carbon nanotube material that absorbs 99.995% of incident light. This makes it ideal for measuring total solar radiation.
Reducing the size of a satellite reduces the cost and complexity of placing that satellite in low earth orbit. This allows scientists to prepare backup instruments that can preserve the TSI record should an existing instrument fail. CTIM’s novel radiation detector — also known as a bolometer — uses a new material developed with researchers at the National Institute for Standards and Technology, NASA said.
Previously, NASA missions such as the Earth Radiation Budget Experiment and NASA instruments such as Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System (CERES) have enabled climate scientists to maintain an uninterrupted record of total solar irradiance over a 40-year period. This allowed researchers to rule out increasing solar energy as a culprit for climate change and identify the role of greenhouse gases in global warming.