OSIRIS at the forefront of the study of ozone depletion

OSIRIS (Photo: University of Saskatchewan)

OSIRIS
(Photo: University of Saskatchewan)

Areas where the ozone is depleting can be observed using this optic spectrograph and infrared imager. Scientists use it to produce maps on concentrations of aerosols and nitrogen dioxide, two major sources of atmospheric pollution. OSIRIS also provides daily, monthly, and annual height profile maps of ozone for a given area.

No one's claiming that OSIRIS is the reincarnation of an Egyptian god! However, the international scientific community has been using this instrument since its launch in 2001 because of its ability to observe the ozone from space. Canada's OSIRIS, onboard the Swedish satellite Odin, captures detailed data on ozone depletion, especially at high latitudes and over Canada.

First image of the Antarctic ozone hole returned by OSIRIS. The walls of the hole are very steep. (Image: University of Saskatchewan)

First image of the Antarctic ozone hole returned by OSIRIS.
The walls of the hole are very steep.
(Image: University of Saskatchewan)

What's happening to the protective ozone layer?

In 2002, data gathered by OSIRIS indicated that ozone depletion was lessening. However, the Antarctic ozone hole was larger than ever in 2003 and the ozone is regenerating at a much slower rate than expected.

The new techniques developed for the OSIRIS optical remote-sensing system will have applications in projects other than those in the aerospace industry. Canadian expertise acquired as a result of the new methods developed for OSIRIS is even more valuable since it could be used to study the atmospheres of Mars and other planets in the solar system.

A Canadian partnership

The Odin satellite was launched on February 23, 2001, from Svobodny, in eastern Siberia. It is currently orbiting 600 km above Earth.

The Odin satellite was launched on February 23, 2001, from Svobodny, in eastern Siberia. It is currently orbiting 600 km above Earth.

The scientist leading the OSIRIS mission is Professor Edward Llewellyn of the Institute of Space and Atmospheric Studies at the University of Saskatchewan. "For the first time ever, OSIRIS has enabled scientists to precisely define atmospheric structures", says Professor Llewellyn. "The instrument has resulted in unprecedented innovations in atmospheric tomography. OSIRIS has shown scientists that the atmosphere is structured in ways that had not been previously identified."

OSIRIS is the third joint mission between Canada and Sweden. CSA contributed ultra-violet imagers for both the Viking (1986) and Freja (1992) satellites designed to photograph auroral activity in the upper atmosphere. OSIRIS was designed and built by Routes AstroEngineering, a space-engineering firm based in Kanata, Ontario.

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