A Nasa mission to study the role that dust plays in Earth’s weather and climate systems, is due to be launched later this week.
The instrument called EMIT – which stands for Earth Surface Mineral Dust Source Investigation – will be installed on the International Space Station, where it will study the movement of dust around the world.
It was also look at the what minerals the dust is made of.
Scientists hope that this information will help them understand what effect dust has on the planet, on climate change, and on human populations.
What will happen?
Desert regions produce most of the mineral dust that makes its way into Earth’s atmosphere.
Every year, strong winds carry more than one billion metric tons of mineral dust from these areas through the atmosphere.
One of the problems that scientists face is that these regions are very big and largely remote, making it difficult for experts to collect samples by hand.
While researchers know that the dust affects the environment and climate, they don’t have enough data to discover what those effects are or how they may look in the future.
Experts hope that by being attached to the International Space Station (ISS), EMIT will be able to map the world’s mineral dust source regions as the ISS orbits the Earth.
EMIT also contains a special device called an imaging spectrometer – which breaks down light and will help scientists find out what the dust is made of.
This data will be used to understand which kind of dust dominates each region and help experts to understand if dust is having any impact on climate change.