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A Birds Eye View of Colorado Pollution

Loud airplanes from NASA and the National Center for Atmospheric Research can be heard and seen throughout Colorado, flying low and slowly gaining altitude.
What are these military-style planes doing?

NASA and NCAR scientists are using them to take air samples, with the cooperation of Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corporation and other researchers.

Denise Henry, outreach manger at Ball Aerospace, is constantly out in the community; answering questions about what these planes are doing.

“The air we breathe affects every single person,” Henry states, and that is what Ball is focusing on: air.

The planes are taking air samples to improve our knowledge of air pollution, not only along the Front Range, but also in Southern California, Houston and Washington D.C.

NASA, NCAR , Frappe (Front Range Air Pollution and Photochemistry Experiment), and Ball Aerospace are all partners in this effort.
They will each collect different information, but it will all be put into the same database.

Ball Aerospace has created a spectrometer to measure the different pollutants and gases in the air, turning them into different colors.
This spectrometer is called GEO-TASO which stands for “Geostationary Trace Gases and Aerosol Sensor Optimization.”
The spectrometer turns the information into a graph which is then turned into a color-coded picture of the area.

Paula Wamsley has a doctorate in physics and also works at Ball Aerospace, with her main focus being Earth science.

“This research is supposed to help individual scientists answer their own questions about air pollution,” Dr. Wamsley says, “That is our main goal.”