Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2

  • Released Tuesday, July 1st, 2014
  • Updated Wednesday, May 3rd, 2023 at 1:50PM

The Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2, or OCO-2, satellite is scheduled to launch this week. The satellite is NASA’s first mission dedicated to measuring carbon dioxide levels in our atmosphere. Carbon dioxide is the leading human-produced greenhouse gas driving climate-related changes on Earth. Scientists estimate that current concentrations in the atmosphere are the highest they have been in 800,000 years. The gas enters the atmosphere through natural processes and human activities, such as the burning of fossil fuels. Half of these emissions stay in the atmosphere while half dissolves into oceans, rivers and lakes or becomes absorbed by plants on land. The OCO-2 satellite will produce a global map of carbon dioxide about every two weeks, allowing scientists to locate ground sources and monitor how levels worldwide are changing over time. Watch the video to learn more.

The satellite will measure the intensity of reflected sunlight—an indicator of how much carbon dioxide is in the air.

The satellite will measure the intensity of reflected sunlight—an indicator of how much carbon dioxide is in the air.

It takes 16 days and 233 orbits for the satellite to produce a complete global picture of carbon dioxide.

It takes 16 days and 233 orbits for the satellite to produce a complete global picture of carbon dioxide.

By viewing the satellite data on a globe, scientists can see where carbon dioxide levels have gone up or down in different parts of the world.

By viewing the satellite data on a globe, scientists can see where carbon dioxide levels have gone up or down in different parts of the world.

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Credits

Please give credit for this item to:
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
Video and images courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech