NASA just launched a powerful new instrument to study dust

A dust plume over the eastern Mediterranean, shrouding parts of Greece, Turkey, and Cyprus. The June 2020 image has been cropped and enhanced to improve contrast, and lens artifacts have been removed. NASA’s EMIT mission will help scientists better understand how airborne dust affects climate. | Image: NASA

A payload making its way to the International Space Station could help researchers back on Earth finally solve a climate mystery that’s stymied scientists for years. NASA launched a key instrument for its climate research, called the Earth Surface Mineral Dust Source Investigation (EMIT), aboard a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft Thursday night from the Kennedy Space Center.

Dust is a surprisingly powerful force up in the atmosphere, which is why NASA is determined to better understand it. The tiny particles waft up from deserts and other arid regions, and depending on many different factors, they can have a cooling or heating effect on our planet. Which scenario is actually playing out across the globe, however, continues to elude scientists.

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