March 1, 2004

Canadian instrument marks 3rd year of measuring ozone depletion from space

The Canadian Space Agency last week marked the third anniversary of the launch and activation of Osiris onboard the Swedish satellite Odin. Osiris is a Canadian instrument that continues to capture precise data on ozone depletion. It allows scientists to map sources of atmospheric pollution with enhanced precision, recording such things as concentrations of aerosols and nitrogen dioxide. Osiris can also provide daily, monthly and annual height profile maps of ozone for a given region.

"For the first time ever, Osiris has enabled scientists to precisely define atmospheric structures," said Edward Llewellyn, a University of Saskatchewan professor who is leading the scientific mission. "The instrument has resulted in unprecedented innovations in atmospheric tomography, producing the equivalent of a CAT scan of the atmosphere. Osiris has shown scientists that the atmosphere is structured in ways that had not been previously identified."

Data gathered by Osiris in 2002 seemed to indicate a lessening in ozone depletion. Subsequent information, however, revealed that the Antarctic ozone hole was bigger than ever in 2003, and shows that ozone is regenerating at a much slower rate than normal. The amount and calibre of information gathered together constitute a valuable contribution being made to international ozone depletion studies by Canada, says the Agency.

Canadian expertise gained and the new methods developed through the use of OSIRIS are valuable since they could be applied to study the atmospheres of Mars and other planets. The scientific mission, with partners Sweden, Finland and France, is completing its third year. Both the instrument and satellite are continuing to perform very well.

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