WASHINGTON – Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Well, it’s definitely not Superman.
It is in fact a plane, and its part of an important, month-long collaboration between the Howard University Beltsville Center for Climate System Observation (BCCSO), NASA and five other institutions to measure the air quality in the Washington and Baltimore areas.
It’s called Discover-AQ, and throughout July, NASA has been sending up two aircraft, one in very low-level flights, around Washington and Baltimore to measure the air quality from the air down towards the ground. That’s the one that has commuters in a tizzy.
NASA’S P3B, a 117-foot turboprop, is sampling an area from Beltsville north, following major roadways including I-95. At several points, the plane flies low-altitude spirals over ground stations, diving from 15,000 feet to 1,000 feet.
Howard’s Beltsville facility is the first point on its flight. BCCSO, a NASA University Research Center, is one of the key sites charged with measuring the air quality from the ground up during the NASA flights.
Aside from the center’s own extensive air quality measuring and weather monitoring equipment, it is also the site of the Maryland Department of the Environment’s key air quality measuring facilities. The department is also working with NASA during Discovery-AQ.