NASA has powered on its latest instrument on the International Space Station (ISS) to detect the total amount of light energy emitted by the Sun
Total and Spectral Solar Irradiance Sensor (TSIS-1), installed on the ISS, is fully operational with all instruments collecting science data, NASA said.
"TSIS-1 extends along data record that helps us understand the Sun's influence on Earth's radiation budget, ozone layer, atmospheric circulation, and ecosystems, and the effects that solar variability has on the Earth system and climate change," said Dong Wu, TSIS-1 project scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in the US.
"This sensor's data will give us a better understanding of Earth's primary energy supply and provide information to help improve models simulating the planet's climate," said Wu.
The instrument was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on December 15, last year.
For over two months, the operations team at the University of Colorado, Boulder in the US has been testing TSIS-1.
The sensor studies the total amount of light energy emitted by the Sun using the Total Irradiance Monitor, one of two sensors onboard the ISS.
The monitor first started collecting science data - called "first light"- on January 11 after its doors were opened to fully view the Sun.
The sensor extends a 40-year measurement of the Sun's total energy to Earth.
The second onboard sensor, called the Spectral Irradiance Monitor, measures how the Sun's energy is distributed over the ultraviolet, visible and infrared regions of light.
Measuring the distribution of the Sun's energy is important because each wavelength of light interacts with Earth's atmosphere differently.
For instance, spectral irradiance measurements of the Sun's ultraviolet radiation are critical to understanding the ozone layer -Earth's natural sunscreen that protects life from harmful radiation.
The sensor experienced first light on March 4 when full science data collection began.