On June 9th NASA will be launching their Aquarius/SAC-D observatory, a satellite dedicated to studying changes in the Earth’s climate. The main instrument on the satellite, the Aquarius, will be measuring levels of salinity in the Earth’s oceans. The salinity of the ocean plays a huge role in the water cycle and the ocean’s circulation — both movements have a huge effect on the planet’s climate — and with this data NASA scientists will be able to track how the ocean’s salinity affects climate change.

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Salinity is the glue that bonds two major components of Earth’s complex climate system: ocean circulation and the global water cycle,” said Aquarius Principal Investigator Gary Lagerloef of Earth & Space Research in Seattle.”Aquarius will map global variations in salinity in unprecedented detail, leading to new discoveries that will improve our ability to predict future climate.”

Every seven days, Aquarius will provide NASA with a map of the world’s oceans and measurements on its salinity by sensing and documenting microwave emissions with an on-board radiometer instrument. The satellite will orbit 408 miles above the Earth’s surface for the next three years, and will also carry eight other instruments focused on environmental concerns. The observatory came as a result of a partnership between NASA scientists at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and Argentina’s space agency, Comision Nacional de Actividades Espaciales.

+ Read more about Aquarius

Photos courtesy of NASA