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In this animation, the field of view of the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) instrument onboard NASA's Aqua spacecraft is represented by the blue beam as it sweeps back and forth through the atmosphere down to the surface of the Earth. AIRS collects infrared radiance data in this field of view. Panning down, a rainbow-colored column representing temperature layers in the atmosphere is revealed. Temperature values are one of the measurements that will be produced from the infrared radiances. The white vertical beam that runs horizontally across the column represents one scan of the AIRS instrument across the column. The red footprints below the column are meant to suggest the 30 individual vertical columns (profiles) that are captured in one scan. One profile is pulled out of the column and mapped on to a temperature scale to reinforce the idea that each profile contains data up through a vertical column in the atmosphere.
The Atmospheric Infrared Sounder, AIRS, in conjunction with the Advanced Microwave Sounding Unit, AMSU, senses emitted infrared and microwave radiation from Earth to provide a three-dimensional look at Earth's weather and climate. Working in tandem, the two instruments make simultaneous observations all the way down to Earth's surface, even in the presence of heavy clouds. With more than 2,000 channels sensing different regions of the atmosphere, the system creates a global, three-dimensional map of atmospheric temperature and humidity, cloud amounts and heights, greenhouse gas concentrations, and many other atmospheric phenomena. Launched into Earth orbit in 2002, the AIRS and AMSU instruments fly onboard NASA's Aqua spacecraft and are managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., under contract to NASA. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.
More information about AIRS can be found at http://airs.jpl.nasa.gov.