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Airborne Multi-angle SpectroPolarimeter Imager

A team of Jet Propulsion Laboratory researchers is collaborating with the Polarization Laboratory at the University of Arizona’s College of Optical Sciences in Tucson to develop a candidate approach for a science instrument to fly aboard a next-generation mission that would survey the impacts of aerosols and clouds on global climate change.

The Multiangle SpectroPolarimetric Imager, or MSPI, is a candidate for the multi-directional, multi-wavelength, high-accuracy polarization imager identified by the National Research Council's Earth Sciences Decadal Survey as one component of the notional Aerosol-Cloud-Ecosystem, or ACE, mission. NASA would fly the ACE spacecraft late in the next decade to characterize the role of aerosols in climate forcing, especially their impact on precipitation and cloud formation. Forcing is the process by which natural mechanisms or human activities alter the global energy balance and “force” the climate to change. The unresolved effects of aerosols on clouds are among the greatest uncertainties in predicting global climate change.

MSPI is conceptually similar to JPL’s Multiangle Imaging SpectroRadiometer, or MISR, carried on NASA’s EOS Terra spacecraft, but with some important additions. The new camera design extends the spectral range to the ultraviolet and shortwave infrared (from 446–866 nm to 355–2130 nm), increases the image swath (from 360 km to 680 km) to achieve more rapid global coverage (from 9 days to 4 days), and adds high-accuracy polarimetry in selected spectral bands. Like MISR, a suite of MSPI cameras would view Earth at a variety of angles, with an intrinsic pixel size of a few hundred meters, which for certain channels would be averaged up to about 1 kilometer.                           

Multiband Polarimetric Image  Rays from UV to VNIR

The MSPI prototype produces excellent  multiband polarimetric images.

The MSPI prototype produces excellent intensity images ranging from ultraviolet (UV) to near-infrared (VNIR).

JPL atmospheric scientist David J. Diner leads the MSPI development team.  Under NASA’s Instrument Incubator Program, the team developed the first prototype MSPI camera - a field-deployable system operating at the red wavelength of 660 nanometers. They are currently developing a second prototype that contains eight spectral bands from the ultraviolet to near-infrared (355 to 935 nanometers); the system, known as AirMSPI, is aimed at future deployment aboard NASA’s ER-2 aircraft.


Diner, D. J., A. Davis, B. Hancock, G. Gutt, R. A. Chipman, and B. Cairns, 2007: Dual photoelastic modulator-based polarimetric imaging concept for aerosol remote sensing. Applied Optics, 46, 8428-8445.

Diner, D. J., A. Davis, B. Hancock, S. Geier, B. Rheingans, V. Jovanovic, M. Bull, D. M. Rider, R. A. Chipman, A.-B. Mahler, and S. C. McClain, 2010:  First results from a dual photoelastic modulator-based polarimetric camera. Applied Optics, 49, 2929-2946.

Multi-Angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer (MISR)

This image shows large plumes of smoke rising from wildfires burning near Los Angeles and San Diego on Sunday, October 26, 2003 are highlighted in this image from JPL's Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer (MISR). Plumes are apparent from fires burning near the California-Mexico border, San Diego, Camp Pendleton, the foothills of the San Bernardino Mountains, and in and around Simi Valley.

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