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The measurement of change in the ozone layer is today operationally possible at a high temporal and spatial resolution in near real-time allowing ongoing updates of the effects of pollution.

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'Star Wars' laser offers new insight into Earth's atmosphere

05 December 2011

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With the need to understand global change one of today’s most pressing scientific challenges, ESA is exploring novel techniques for future space missions. Firing laser pulses between satellites is promising a step up in tracking greenhouse gases.

More renowned for their appeal as holiday destinations, the Spanish Canary Islands recently played host to an experiment that involved shooting laser beams from a peak on La Palma to Tenerife. Over the course of two weeks, the night sky lit up with green pulses of light between the two islands – looking more like a scene from a Star Wars film than an experiment to help understand Earth’s atmosphere.

The experiment was devised to test the concept of using ‘infrared differential absorption spectroscopy’ as a way of making extremely accurate measurements of trace gases such as carbon dioxide and methane.

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