• NASA announced that it is partnering with the Italian Space Agency ASI (Agenzia Spaziale Italiana) to build and launch MAIA, or the Multi-Angle Imager for Aerosols missions.
  • The joint mission will investigate the health impacts of air pollution in the world’s most populated cities.
  • MAIA will make radiometric and polarimetric measurements needed to characterize the sizes, compositions and quantities of particulate matter in air pollution.

Researchers will combine MAIA measurements with population health records to better understand the connections between aerosol pollutants and health problems such as:

  1. adverse birth outcomes,
  2. cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, and
  3. premature deaths.

Working of MAIA:

  • The MAIA instrument measures the radiance and polarization of sunlight scattered by atmospheric aerosols, from which the abundance and characteristics of ground-level particulate matter (PM) are derived.
  • The instrument contains a pushbroom spectropolarimetric camera on a two-axis gimbal for multiangle viewing, frequent target revisits, and inflight calibration.
  • An aerosol is a tiny particle (solid or liquid) in the atmosphere.
  • Larger particles settle to the ground due to gravity after a few hours, whereas the smallest particles can stay in the atmosphere for long. 

Sources of aerosols:

  1. Natural process:
  2. Salt from the sea,
  3. dust from dry regions, or
  4. particles released by wildfires,
  5. Man made sources:
  6. fossil fuel burning in factories
  7. air pollution from cars etc.

Some aerosols are released into the atmosphere, while others are made in the atmosphere itself, for example sulfate aerosols are made in the atmosphere from sulfur dioxide released from power plants.

Aerosols and health

  • Aerosols are one of the main air pollutants, leading to the premature deaths of millions of people every year as they damage lungs and can even enter the bloodstream.
  • Microplastics can accumulate toxic chemicals such as mercury or persistent organic pollutants (POPs), including brominated flame retardants and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).
  • Aerosols affect the climate as strongly as greenhouse gases, but in a completely different way.
  • They are able to scatter sunlight, meaning they actually cool the planet by reflecting about 1/4 of the sun’s rays back to space.
  • The IPCC concluded that industrial aerosols have acted to significantly slow the increase in global temperature over the last thirty years.
  • However other types of aerosol, particularly black carbon or brown carbon/organic matter, will absorb light radiation, adding to warming the atmosphere.
  • Aerosols, especially black carbon, can deposit a layer of dark residue on ice, which both speeds up melting and reduces the amount of radiation being reflected


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