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Aqua CERES First Light

NASA's Aqua Satellite Celebrates 10th Anniversary


The Aqua satellite mission has proved to be a major component of the Earth Observing System (EOS) for its ability to gather unprecedented amounts of information on Earth’s water cycle, including measurements on water vapor, clouds, precipitation, ice, and snow. Aqua data has helped improve weather prediction, detection of forest fires, volcanic ash, and sandstorms. In addition, Aqua data have been used to detect and monitor such greenhouse gases as carbon dioxide, water vapor, and methane, and to examine the energy imbalance at the top of the Earth's atmosphere and the various components of it. With these uses of Aqua data, scientists have been able to better understand our Earth over the course of the past ten years.


Aqua is a major international Earth Science satellite mission centered at NASA. Launched on May 4, 2002, the satellite has six different Earth-observing instruments on board and is named for the large amount of information being obtained about water in the Earth system from its stream of approximately 89 Gigabytes of data a day. The water variables being measured include almost all elements of the water cycle and involve water in its liquid, solid, and vapor forms. Additional variables being measured include radiative energy fluxes, aerosols, vegetation cover on the land, phytoplankton and dissolved organic matter in the oceans, and air, land, and water temperatures.


For more information about NASA's Aqua satellite, visit:





NASA’s latest Earth Observing System satellite—Aqua—is dedicated to advancing our understanding of Earth’s water cycle. Launched on May 4, 2002, Aqua has successfully completed its checkout period and is fully operational. Using multiple instruments, Aqua data and images are crucial toward improving our knowledge of global climate change.

The Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System (CERES) instrument is one of six on board the Aqua satellite. CERES detects the amount of outgoing heat and reflected sunlight leaving the planet. A detailed understanding of how clouds affect the energy balance is essential for better climate change predictions.

These Aqua images show CERES measurements over the United States from June 22, 2002. Clear ocean regions, shown in dark blue on the left image, reflect the least amount of sunlight back to space. Clear land areas, shown in lighter blue, reflect more solar energy. Clouds and snow-covered surfaces, shown in white and green, reflect the greatest amounts of sunlight back to space. Clear warm regions, shown in yellow over much of the western United States on the right image, emit the most heat. High, cold clouds, shown in blue and white, significantly reduce the amount of heat lost to space.

Aqua is part of NASA’s Earth Science Enterprise, a long-term research effort dedicated to understanding and protecting our home planet. Through the study of Earth, NASA will help to provide sound science to policy and economic decision makers so as to better life here, while developing the technologies needed to explore the universe and search for life beyond our home planet.

Click to read details on the launch and deployment of Aqua; or read the Aqua fact sheet for more information about the mission.

Image courtesy CERES Science Team, NASA Langley Research Center


Aqua - CERES

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Uploaded on May 4, 2012