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NASA
IMAGE: NASA

For the first time, an instrument onboard an orbiting NASA spacecraft has measured the methane emissions from a single, specific leaking facility on the Earth’s surface, the US space agency has said.

The observation — by the Hyperion spectrometer on NASA’s Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) — is an important breakthrough in our ability to eventually measure and monitor emissions of this potent greenhouse gas from space.

“This is the first time the methane emissions from a single facility have been observed from space,” said one of the researchers, David Thompson from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.

In a new paper accepted for publication in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, a research team detailed the observation, which occurred over Aliso Canyon, near Porter Ranch, California.

The Hyperion instrument successfully detected the methane leak on three separate overpasses during the winter of 2015-16.

The research was part of an investigation of the large accidental Aliso Canyon methane release last fall and winter.

The orbital observations from Hyperion were consistent with airborne measurements made by NASA’s Airborne/Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (AVIRIS) imager flying onboard a NASA ER-2 aircraft.

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