ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has just released the first images from the TEMPO instrument. The space-based probe is designed to capture images of air pollution with a resolution good enough to identify individual cities and neighborhoods.

The first images, which show nitrogen dioxide density in the troposphere on August 2, 2023, are just a sample of what the instrument can do. But those images reveal that researchers may soon have a better image of pollution in New Mexico and across the U.S.

“Our first look at TEMPO’s data shows that it is working superbly,” Xiong Liu, the deputy principal investigator of the TEMPO mission, said in a press release. “This is a very exciting moment for our team after working on TEMPO for over a decade. We can now proudly say we’re beginning a new era of air-quality monitoring over North America.”

NASA released sample images showing the change in air pollution over a matter of hours above big cities like Los Angeles and New York. The released images reveal TEMPO can also see nitrogen dioxide above Albuquerque, El Paso, and southeast New Mexico’s oil fields.

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Image from TEMPO shows nitrogen dioxide density over major cities. Credits: NASA’s SVS; Data provided by SAO at the CfA

TEMPO can also track ozone, aerosols, sulfur dioxide, and formaldehyde, NASA says. This can help scientists track air impacts from cars, oil refineries, and wildfires.

TEMPO also collects data across the entire U.S. during the day. NASA says this is an improvement over most Earth-monitoring satellites which can usually only see a particular region once per day.

“TEMPO has the potential to revolutionize forecasts of air quality in North America,” Caroline Nowlan, a physicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, said in a press release. “It will also serve as the North American component of an international constellation of satellites for air-quality monitoring.”