New sensor measures how much of the Sun’s energy reaches Earth

The Total and Spectral solar Irradiance Sensor (TSIS-1) was designed to direct itself toward the Sun to collect information about the Sun's energy as it hits Earth.

A powerful new instrument was successfully launched to the International Space Station earlier this year. The Total and Spectral solar Irradiance Sensor (TSIS-1) was designed to direct itself toward the Sun during daylight hours to collect information about the Sun’s influence on the Earth.

NASA has been measuring the incoming energy from the Sun for the last 40 years. TSIS-1, which became fully operational this month, will revolutionize the way this data is collected.

Dong Wu is project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

“TSIS-1 extends a long data record that helps us understand the Sun’s influence on Earth’s radiation budget, ozone layer, atmospheric circulation, and ecosystems, and the effects that solar variability has on the Earth system and climate change,” explained Wu.

A team at the University of Colorado Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) has been testing TSIS-1 for the last two months to refine its pointing platform, a critical component of the sensor which controls the projection of the solar instruments toward the Sun.

TSIS-1 was initially launched on December 15th, 2017 from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. It was transported by the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket to the space station.

NASA explained in a statement:

“TSIS-1 studies the total amount of light energy emitted by the Sun using the Total Irradiance Monitor, one of two sensors onboard. This sensor’s data will give us a better understanding of Earth’s primary energy supply and provide information to help improve models simulating the planet’s climate.”

“The monitor first started collecting science data – called “first light” – on January 11th after its doors were opened to fully view the Sun. The sensor extends a 40-year measurement of the sun’s total energy to Earth.”

By Chrissy Sexton, Earth.com Staff Writer