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NASA’s powerful new air quality monitor has launched into space

A device that looks like silver panels above coils of wires with four black disks on the left side.
NASA’s new air quality monitoring instrument, TEMPO. | Image: Maxar via NASA

NASA sent a powerful new instrument into space overnight to track air pollution. If all goes well, it should be able to zoom in to see how air quality changes from neighborhood to neighborhood across North America. That could fill in big data gaps that hide disparities when it comes to who has to live with the most pollution.

The tool is called TEMPO, short for Tropospheric Emissions Monitoring of Pollution instrument. It will keep a tab on three harmful pollutants: nitrogen dioxide, formaldehyde, and ground-level ozone. Together, they’re key ingredients for smog.

Three out of eight Americans live in counties that earned F…

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