NASA uses EPIC to study clouds and Saharan dust

EPIC stands for Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera and is one of the instruments that is affixed to the NOAA Deep Space Climate Observatory known as DSCOVR that sits about a million miles from Earth. EPIC is giving scientists on Earth a new way to view clouds, land, aerosols, and other items in our atmosphere.

Results from the first round of EPIC images were discussed Monday at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco. EPIC is used to capture color images of the sunlight side of the Earth at least every two hours.

That two-hour minimum time frame between images lets scientists track features as the planet rotates in the field of view EPIC covers. This enables the researchers to track things in the atmosphere as the planet rotates including cloud structures. EPIC takes measurements using visible, ultraviolet, and near-infrared wavelengths allowing researchers to watch things like dust from the Sahara desert as it travels.

The height and location of clouds during the day can be determined by comparing EPIC images at different wavelengths. The camera can even pick up tracks of ships crossing the Atlantic by picking up clouds resulting from the smoke plumes of the ships. The DSCOVR spacecraft is placed at the first Lagrange point giving it a stable orbit and it has instruments that view the sun. EPIC images gave us a glimpse at the moon passing the Earth previously.