Transcript for NASAConnect - The Measurement of All Things: Atmospheric Detectives

[Jennifer:] Hey, kids remember Buzz
Lightyear from the "Toy Story"?

Remember when you first meet
Woody and used his laser,

well that laser was just a toy,
but at NASA Langley Research Center

in Hampton Virginia,
they use real lasers.

You see the lasers that are uses at
NASA study the earth's atmosphere.

In today's episode of NASA
Connect Van and I will take you

to NASA Langley Research Center
where you will meet scientist

and researchers who use lasers and
satellites to measure particles

in the earth's atmosphere.

So stick around as NASA
Connect takes you on a trip

to the upper reaches of
the earth's atmosphere

and remember guys its
mathematics, science and technology

that make it all possible.

Hang on as NASA Connect
takes you to infinity

and beyond the earth's atmosphere.

[ Music ]

[Mr. Murphy:] By the looks
of your engines they need

of a serious tune up.

You need to replace your
catalytic converter.

Your van's sick,

[inaudible] needs help and
you young men are contributing

the global pollution.

[Van:] So what does that mean?

[Mr. Murphy:] Means
you are rejected.

[Woman:] Anything else?

[Van:] No thanks.

[Jennifer:] Hey, stranger.

Why the little face?

[Van:] Hey!

Mr. Murphy rejected my van.

He said that the particle emissions
coming out of my van were too high

and that are polluting the air.

[Jennifer:] You are upset, huh?

[Van:] How does he even
know my van is a polluter?

So the van smokes a
little big deal, mean,

how much can a little
smoke damage do to the air?

After all it's only one van.

[Jennifer:] Well it hard to
understand how they measure,

what's in the smoke coming out
of your van, because of a lot

of it we can see,
that's why garages

that inspect vehicles have
special tools to measure the amount

of particle emissions
in the cars exhaust.

So you see Van if your vans
emission levels are too high you

get the big rejection.

[Van:] Well how can you measure
something you can't even see?

[Jennifer:] Okay.

Just because you can't see
something doesn't mean it's

not there, right!

Take the air for example; there
are particles in the air right now.

That are so small even
our eyes can't see them.

Believe me those particles
are there, check it out.

In the weather section
of the newspaper,

they report on something everyday
called the air quality index level.

This level tells us
the amount of particles

or aerosols in the air around us.

[Van:] Aerosols like hair spray?

[Jennifer:] Yeah, simply put an
aerosol is a particle either a

liquid or a solid that
is suspended in the air.

So yes hair spray is
considered an aerosol.

>> Well there are some
other examples of aerosols?

[Jennifer:] Chalk
becomes an aerosol

after you bang two
erasers together.

The flakes released into the air

when you scratch you
body become aerosols.

Of course the dust
from desert storms

and volcanic ash are also aerosols.

[Van:] Okay so there aerosols all
around us but we can't see them.

But I'm still confused, how can
we actually measure an aerosol.

[Jennifer:] Look when we take
a road trip to Hampton Virginia

and visit NASA Langley
Research Center

and Hampton University I know
some atmospheric scientists there

that can help us both
better understand,

how they measure aerosols
in the atmosphere.

Thank you.

You are paying this
we always take my car.

[ Music ]

[Jennifer:] Hi guys!

Welcome to this episode
of NASA Connect.

I am Jennifer Pulley.

[Van:] And I am Van Hughes.

Speaking about measuring aerosols

on today's show NASA
Connect travels

to St. Steven's Indian School
on the Wind River reservation

in Wyoming, Students there will
show you how to collect aerosols.

You can conduct this experiment at
your own school or even in home.

[Jennifer:] And to help you
understand the information

in our show.

Every time our friend
Norbert appears with Q card.

That your cue to think
about answers

to the questions he gives you.

Got it? You will also meet NASA's
educational technology program

manager, Dr. Shelley Kenly
who will introduce you

to some students in California.

[Van:] Yeah!

These kids are hooked up and turned
on to our NASA Connect website.

You will see how they are using
the internet to learn more

about measuring the
earth's atmosphere.

[Jennifer:] For right now,
let's get some expert help

and some more background
information on aerosols

from Dr. M. Patrick
McCormick, He is the Co-director

of Hampton University's Center
for Atmospheric Sciences.

>> How does the amount of aerosols

in the atmosphere affect the
earth's weather condition?

[Dr. Patrick McCormick:] Yeah,
atmosphere consists primarily

of oxygen and other gases like
nitrogen and water vapor, hydrogen.

But did you know that the
air we breathe also consist

of tiny milk particles
called aerosols.

Aerosols, they are very
important for a lot's of reasons.

For example, aerosol is thought to
be important to climate by change

in the properties of clouds.

If you didn't have an aerosol
it would very difficult

for a cloud droplet to form.

In the air water molecules
attach themselves to aerosols

and as they condense a
cloud droplet is formed.

The aerosols act as seeds
to start the formation

of the cloud droplets.

In any location the
amount of aerosols

in the atmosphere can change
how far we can see the frequency

of clouds in the sky,
the thickness of clouds

and even the rainfall amount.

Some aerosols are
naturally occurring

in the atmosphere like sea salt,
pollen and particles produced

by volcanic eruptions.

Other aerosols are human-made
like factory pollutants,

automobile exhaust and
smoke from biomass burning.

>> Can aerosols affect the
temperature here on earth?

[Dr. Patrick McCormick:]
Sure they can.

When aerosols like smoke
and dust and pollen float

in the air, the air becomes hazy.

Now if this haziness reflects
sunlight back to space,

the affect is going to be a
cooling of the atmosphere on earth.

But if this haziness absorbs energy
well then the net affect is going

to be a warming of the
atmosphere here on earth.

[Jennifer:] After getting
tons of information

from Dr. McCormick we drove
to NASA Langley in Hampton,

Virginia to talk with Dr. Russell
Deon, an atmospheric scientist

in the chemistry and
dynamics branch.

[Van:] Hi, I am Van.

[Dr. Russell Deon:]
Hi, glad to meet you.

What brings you two here today?

[Jennifer:] Well it all started and
when Van's car failed inspection

because his emission
levels were too high.

[Van:] Yeah!

I can't believe they got rejected
when there is so many other things

in the atmosphere to worry about.

Can my vans little emissions,

really affect the huge
atmosphere above us?

[Dr. Russell Deon:] Okay good.

Now you've got a lot
of good questions

and I think I get some
answers for you all.

Here at NASA Langley in Hampton
Virginia and NASA Goddard

in Greenbelt Maryland,
we study how natural

and manmade aerosols
affect the atmosphere?

You have one vehicle every
time you have new block has

at least one vehicle.

Your city is all of vehicles in
the U.S. alone there are million

of vehicles all burning
fossil fuels.

All together these
vehicles emit huge amounts

of particles called aerosols

that are carried long
distances by the wind.

Did you know that in 1991
Mount Pinatubo a volcano

in Philippines erupted
releasing mass

of aerosol concentrations
into the air?

These aerosols were
immediately dispersed

into the upper atmosphere.

Three months later, the same
aerosols could be found all

over the earth.

Okay, your van is a small
polluter, but think about this.

We will think about the combined
effect of all the exhaust

of all the cars in the world
on the earth's atmosphere.

[Jennifer:] Wow!

It's definitely something
to think about.

Hey, here is Norbert with some more
questions for you to think about.

>> How the aerosols
affect our health?

>> What is remote sensing?

>> Name and describe the
two types of remote sensing

and give examples of each?

>> How are aerosols in
the atmosphere measured?

[Dr. Russell Deon:] Studying the
atmospheres of early new science.

In the chemistry and
dynamics branch

of NASA Langley Research Centre
atmospheric scientist are trying

to determine how many
aerosols there are

and where they are
in the atmosphere?

Now these aerosols are important
because they affect our health.

Small aerosols can enter our
lungs as we breathe polluted air.

These aerosols can
be deposited deep

in our lungs blocking the lungs
ability to exchange oxygen

and carbon dioxide, over time
this makes it hard to breathe.

Here at NASA Langley we measure
aerosols using a technique

called Remote Sensing.

>> Where is remote sensing?

[Jennifer:] Remote sensing
is collecting information

about an object without
physically touching the object.

It's learning without touching.

The most familiar kind of remote
sensing is the use of our eyes

to detect a distant object.

We also learn without
touching when we hear.

For example, when a car beats
its horn, we hear from a distance

and sense we're in danger.

You know there are two types of
remote sensing Active and Passive

and early example of passive
remote sensing involve the use

of a camera.

In 1858, the first aerial
photograph of land was taken

from a balloon floating
over Paris in France.

This is called Passive, because
the camera uses only the light

from the sun to record
the image on film.

On the other hand, Active remote
sensing uses its own light source.

Put a flash on a camera and you've
made it active because the light

from the flash reflects off the
distant object being photographed.

Using active remote sensing, you
can take pictures whenever you want

because you don't have to depend
on the sun to give you light.

>> Explain how scientist use LIDAR
to help to measure the aerosol

from the atmosphere
from the atmosphere?

[Dr. Russell Deon:] Here
on our lab in NASA Langley,

we use a technique called
active remote sensing.

Now that means that we
carry our own light source.

We don't wait around for the
sun to shine on the object.

And we use what we do is we
use short pulses of laser light

to probe the atmosphere.

This technique is called LIDAR.

LIDAR stands for Light
Detection And Ranging.

A LIDAR uses short
pulses of laser light

to detect the aerosols
in the atmosphere.

NASA Langley is involved
in active remote sensing

from the ground and in the air.


[inaudible] in California
LIDAR is flown

in the high altitude ER-2 Aircraft
to record atmospheric data.

And at NASA Dryden also

in California a high altitude
solar powered unpiloted Airplane is

being developed that can stay aloft
for weeks, even months at a time

to make atmospheric measurements.

>> So how does LIDAR work?

[Dr. Russell Deon:] Well first
of all we open its trap door

and then align our LIDAR
under the open sky.

Then we shoot a pulse laser
beam into the atmosphere.

Some of that laser beam scatters
off the tiny aerosol particles

and scatters light
into this telescope.

The light is then
captured by this detector.

By precisely timing the laser
pulse going out into the atmosphere

and the reflected light
coming back to the telescope.

Scientist can accurately
measure the location

and number of aerosols.

Now remember this is active
remote sensing much like

that flash on the camera.

[Van:] Okay, I understand passive

and active remote sensing
and how LIDAR works.

But how do you measure the
distance from the ground

to the aerosols in the atmosphere.

You can't use a meter stick?

[Jennifer:] Okay,
let's say you want

to measure something far away
say like aerosols in the sky.

You are right; you
wouldn't use a meter stick.

Scientists at NASA
Langley use mathematics.

A pulse of laser light is shot
from point a, the beam travels

from point a, to the aerosols at
point b. Then the light reflects

of the aerosols and
bounces back to point a,

if you know how fast it takes for
a pulse of laser light to travel

and you know a little map then
you can calculate how far away the

aerosols are in the atmosphere.

Check it out.

It takes a pulse of
light one nanoseconds

to travel one third of a meter.

>> What is a nanosecond?

[Jennifer:] A nanosecond is one
billionth of a second basically.

It is a really small
amount of time.

Anyway, if a scientist should
suppose of laser light sky

and that beam reflects back,
say in six thousand nanoseconds.

The aerosols in the sky are really
three thousand nanoseconds away.

Why, because you have to divide
the total time by two in order

to find the time one way.

Got it? So if you multiply the time
one way three thousand nanoseconds

by the number of meters

in a nanosecond one-third
you get one thousand meters.

If you know how to convert meters
to kilometers you can calculate

that the aerosols in the
sky are one kilometer away.

[Dr. Russell Deon:] Well that
should answer your question Van.

But you know in order to get
the whole picture we need

to measure aerosols from space.

Let me call a few colleagues of
mine over at Hampton University

who are working with NASA
Langley Ball Aerospace,

and the French Space
Agency to get them explain

to you how we can measure
aerosols from space.

[Jennifer:] Well while Dr
Deon makes his arrangements.

Let's travel to the Wind
River Reservation in Wyoming

where students at St. Steven's
Indian School are being

atmospheric detectives.

[Children:] Welcome to St.
Steven's Indian School.

>> St. Steven's Indian School
is a VIA that school situated

on the Wind River Indian
reservation and Central Wyoming.

The reservation is home to nearly
ten thousand native Americans.

Most even Northern
Arapaho Shoshone tribes.

Students work hard on the usual
subjects like Math and English.

We are very positively
involved in this project.

[Children:] Work hard!

[Student 1:] NASA Connect
asked us to show you how

to do the lesson for this show.

Here is how you can become
atmospheric detectives.

[Student 2:] Once you
gather the material,

list in the educators guide
locate a specific outside area

that is flat, elevated and open.

Divide the class into
four research groups.

Each group then takes one
piece of contact paper

to the centre of the cardboards.

Take the one piece of contact paper
in the centre of the cardboard

with the sticky side up.

Keep the protective backing on
the contact paper and keep the

above procedure for a total
of two aerosol samples

for each research group.

Each group has been assigned
in area on the school grounds

in which to place its sample.

Each group completes the morning
column on Table A after evasions

of weather conditions on student
data worksheet number one.

You all need to refer
to the local paper,

watch the local weather report
or visit,

before completing
your observations.

Now place one of the samples on
a flat surface preferably a meter

or two above the ground.

Remove the protective
backing from the contact paper

after exposing the
sample to the outside air

for at least two hours place the
aerosol sample grade grid side

down, over the contact paper and
return the sample to the classroom.

Using a magnifying glass or
holding the contact paper

up to a light count the number
of aerosols found in each

of ten randomly selected
squares on the graph.

Randomly selected squares
by tossing the dice twice.

Record the number of
aerosols in each sample square

on Table B aerosols
sample collection data

on student data worksheet
number one.

Add up all the aerosols in the
ten randomly selected squares

to get a total.

Next divide the total number of
aerosols by ten to get an average

or mean of the aerosols per square.

Repeat the procedure for
the afternoon samples.

After the average number of
aerosols per square for each

of the two samples has been
calculated construct the line graph

using the aerosol sample line
graph to compare the data.

After you completed this activity

at school you take
your own sample home.

Place your sample on a flat surface
one to meter above the ground.

Leave your sample
outside every night.

First thing in the morning attach
the aerosol sample grade grid side

down to the contact paper.

Bring your sample
to school with you.

When you get to school your
teachers will be give you time

to randomly select
your ten squares.

Find the average and
report the data

in Table C aerosols sample
data, collection from home

on student data worksheet
number two.

Next to write your address and
the total number of aerosols

from Table C on a
self adhesive note.

Your teacher will divide a map of
your community into four regions,

North-East, North-West,
South-East and South-West.

All the students will place
their label adhesive notes

on to the map where they live.

Using the data from the map
find the average for each region

and make a class graph of the data.

[Jennifer:] Analyze your data guys.

Now that you have the
results from your sample,

you should review the data
and discuss your observations.

Then consider these questions.

How can weather conditions affect
the results of this activity?

What are some other methods
you could use to collect data

on aerosols in the atmosphere?

Look at your map of your community
and the data collected from home.

What is the relationship between
where students live and the amount

of aerosols collected?

Teachers check out our
NASA Connect website.

From here you can download
the educator's guide.

Where you'll find more
questions like these

that will help your
students analyze their data.

Now let's head back
to Hampton University

and meet Dr. John Anderson.

Dr. Anderson uses space
based passive remote sensing

to measure aerosols
in the atmosphere.

Remember this type of remote
sensing is different from LIDAR

which uses active remote
sensing to measure aerosols.

Dr. Anderson's passive remote
sensing system is actually

above us right now.

On a satellite and space,
a satellite is any object

that orbits another
object in space.

>> Comparing contrast
Sage II with Picasso-Cena.

How will Picasso-Cena help
scientist measure aerosols

more accurately?

[Jennifer:] Dr. Anderson!

[Dr. Anderson:] Hi, Jennifer!

Hi Van! Dr. Deon told
me you guys were coming

over to know how satellite
instruments are used

to measure aerosols.

[Jennifer:] Well actually
he thought you could help us

out on information about
satellite instruments.

[Dr. Anderson:] I'll
be glad to help

about satellite instrument
called Sage II which stands

for Stratospheric Aerosol
and Gas Experiment.

The less sunlight that
gets through the atmosphere

in specific wave links,
the higher density

of aerosols there are
in the atmosphere.

A way to demonstrate with the
Sage II photometer might see

up in space, this is
hit two racers together

and shine a light through the dust.

This light from the flash light,

they represent the
light from the sun.

Researchers look at the
reduction on the suns light

to measure how many
aerosols there are

between the sun and the satellite.

Remember stage two only
uses light from the sun;

you know Van when I was
a student in college,

I had actually collected
samples from the real cloud.

[Van:] Really?

[Dr. Anderson:] Oh yeah.

I would climb up Mitchell
North Carolina

when the clouds would
collect around the mountain.

[inaudible] tough iron screen
collector I would hold up

and would run down
into a container.

It demonstrates the same
principle which applies

when water vapors is attracted
to an aerosol in the atmosphere

to create drops and clouds.

[Van:] Cool.

[Dr. Anderson:] Say,
how would like to learn

about the Picasso-Cena system.

[Van:] Okay.

[Dr. Anderson:] Picasso-Cena like
Sage II will be a satellite-borne

instrument that measures
aerosols, but it is quiet different

from Sage II in that Picasso-Cena
uses active remote sensing

for Sage II uses passive
remote sensing.

My colleague Dr. Ali Omar is
developing the Picasso-Cena system

[inaudible] NASA Langley
Research Center, Ball Aerospace

and the French Space
Agency the CNES.

Why don't I take you both
over to see him right now.

[Jennifer:] That will be great.

While Van and I head
over to meet Dr. Omar,

why don't you meet
Dr. Shelly Kenley,

she has got a special NASA
connection to the web just for you.

[Dr. Shelly Kenley:] NASA Earth
Science researchers routinely use

technology and conducting
experiments and analyzing

and communicating the result.

Matter of fact these or researchers
are much like a detective

collecting evidence and
investigating our range of suspects

that might be contributing
to the situation.

I'd like to introduce
everyone to a class

of online atmosphere detectors at

[inaudible] outer California.

They've taken on a
case that Langley's

[inaudible] technology
department has posted

on the NASA Connect website,
let's check it on that.

[Jennifer:] We've
been asked by NASA

to investigate two
puzzling situations related

to remote sensing.

Actually, doing a background check
on remote sensing and checking

out the application
of remote sensing by

[inaudible] and satellites.

We shall prepare for the
NASA Connect web challenge.

In the first puzzle satellite
side, we have been challenged

to identify facts about mystery
image that you see on your screen.

The questions where, what
and why help guide us

through an interpretation
of the image.

Okay, now I can make
each geographical feature

in the satellites image
space on its color.

You can do it too.

Just visit Norbert's lab on the
NASA Connect website and find

that atmosphere detect this
online activity been it.

The completion of the
first puzzle prepared us

for the detailed attention.

We would have to give to
figure out the second half

of the remote sensing puzzle.

In the next activity; atmosphere
aerosols, we are trying to figure

out the density or
concentrations of aerosols

over two different
region of the earth.

We are using information such
as relative density, altitude,

distance, and latitude and
longitude to interpret data

about the image, just
like scientists do.

[Dr. Shelly Kenley:] But Jennifer,

it sounds like the case
being worked by the East

[inaudible] School students
could use some more


I would encourage our viewers to
visit the NASA Connect website

to take a crack at these
remote sensing puzzles.

[Jennifer:] Thanks a lot Shelly!

Hey while you guys get connected to
the web, VAN and I met Dr Ali Omar.

He is the scientist who studies
the atmosphere using satellites.

And hopefully he'll be able to
convince Van of the importance

of keeping his emissions low.

[Dr. Omar:] Thanks Jennifer!

First of all let me welcome you

to the Hampton University's
Computer Lab,

where some of our students are
studying atmospheric science.

[Van:] So Dr Omar, how does
Picasso-Cena measure aerosols

in the atmosphere?

[Dr. Omar:] Well Van, of all the
aerosol measuring systems you have

seen, LIDAR, Sage II, and the
aerosol sampler used by students

at St Stephen's School,
have their uses,

but they also have
their limitations.

Picasso-Cena is being
developed for launch in 2003

to give a more complete
picture of our atmosphere.

[0:25:15.0] The Picasso-Cena
Mission will greatly improve our

understanding of the nature and
magnitude of radiating effects

of aerosols and clouds.

There are many uncertainties
as to whether a cloud heats

or cools the earth's surface.

This is due to inadequate knowledge
of how cloud layers are distributed

within the atmosphere.

Picasso -Cena will help us
obtain more complete observations

of cloud distributions
and properties.

Picasso-Cena will also
use LIDAR in combination

with an instrument
called a spectrometer.

The spectrometer is passive
remote sensing instrument

that measures the radiance
of scattered sunlight.

Using both LIDAR and spectrometer
observations will provide us

with a more accurate measure of
aerosol and cloud properties


Changes in climate are inevitable
but the rapid pace of change

that may starting to take place
presents a potential threat

to our planet.

The new knowledge from Picasso-Cena
will improve our ability

to make accurate predictability
about these changes.

Predictions to help world leaders
define policies that affect us all.

So you see Van, a little bit of
emissions from your car combined

with all the other
emissions affect us all.

We know the world's
population is growing

and there are certain things
we need to do now in order

to protect our environment.

One of those things is getting
your catalytic converter fixed.

[Van:] Aey!

Well thank you very much
Dr. Omar for all your help

[Jennifer:] Thanks a lot Dr. Omar

[Dr. Omar:] You are welcome

[Jennifer:] Well we'd like
to thank everyone who helped

out with today's show.

Especially all the students
who were in the program,

the NASA researchers,
Hampton University

and of course Dr. Shelley Kenley
If you would like a video tape copy

of this NASA connect show
and the educator slides

and lesson plans contact for
- The NASA Central Operation

of Resources for Educators.

All this information
and more is located

on the NASA connect website.

So from Van and the rest

of the NASA connect group
I am Jennifer Pulley.

So now what are you going to do?

[Van:] Well Mr. Murphy
its important

to have your car running
right and clean.

Not only is it healthy
for breathing

but it is also good
for the environment.

Hey, is that your car out there?

[inaudible], huh, got to get that
inspected and fixed and cleaned.

Did you know that the
atmosphere contains aerosols?

An aerosol is a particle
suspended in the air

and aerosols also form clouds.

Some clouds bring rain but some
clouds trap sun's rays bringing

global warming but all
clouds reflect the light

which can cause global cooling.

It all has to do with
particles becoming aerosols.

Say you know there might be
particles coming off this steel

pipe right now.

See? More soot into the atmosphere.

We've got to fix this.

Maybe I can move --
Oops sorry Mr. Murphy.

Maybe we should clean it up.


The Open Video Project is managed at the Interaction Design Laboratory,
at the School of Information and Library Science, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill