Methane leak spotted from space for first time

Methane emissions from a specific leaking facility on Earth’s surface have been measured by an instrument onboard an orbiting spacecraft for the first time. The observation has been done by the Hyperion spectrometer on NASA’s Earth Observing-1 (EO-1). This is an important breakthrough in our ability to eventually measure and monitor emissions of this potent greenhouse gas from space.

The leak occurred over Aliso Canyon near Porter Ranch in California. The methane leak was detected successfully by the Hyperion instrument on three separate overpasses during the winter of 2015-16.

The research was part of an investigation of the large accidental Aliso Canyon methane release last fall and winter. The orbital observations from Hyperion were consistent with airborne measurements made by NASA’s Airborne/Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (AVIRIS) imager flying onboard a NASA ER-2 aircraft.

Part of NASA’s New Millennium Program, EO-1 is an advanced land-imaging mission designed to demonstrate new instruments and spacecraft systems. Launched in 2000, EO-1 has validated technologies for the Operational Land Imager used on the Landsat-8 satellite mission and future imaging spectrometer missions, and supported disaster-response applications. The mission is managed by NASA Goddard.

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