The TSIS so­lar sen­sor

The lat­est space sta­tion sen­sor will help us bet­ter un­der­stand our planet’s power sup­ply

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The Sun is Earth’s pri­mary en­ergy source and the driv­ing force be­hind our cli­mate and weather sys­tems. The amount of so­lar en­ergy that reaches our planet is known as the to­tal so­lar ir­ra­di­ance (TSI), and sci­en­tists have been mea­sur­ing this con­tin­u­ously since 1978. The lat­est de­vice to con­tinue these ob­ser­va­tions is the To­tal and Spec­tral So­lar Ir­ra­di­ance Sen­sor (TSIS-1), in­stalled on­board the In­ter­na­tional Space Sta­tion. This de­vice con­tains two sen­sors that will pro­vide the most ac­cu­rate mea­sure­ments of sun­light yet, mon­i­tor­ing the ra­di­ant en­ergy from the Sun with the To­tal Ir­ra­di­ance Mon­i­tor (TIM) and the dis­tri­bu­tion of that en­ergy across dif­fer­ent wave­lengths with the Spec­tral Ir­ra­di­ance Mon­i­tor (SIM). Our star has an 11-year cy­cle dur­ing which its ac­tiv­ity nat­u­rally fluc­tu­ates. In more ac­tive times, sunspots, flares and coro­nal mass ejec­tions are more com­mon, and the Sun emits com­par­a­tively more en­ergy than when it is less ac­tive. TSIS-1’S sen­sors will col­lect data on TSI and how the dif­fer­ent lay­ers of our at­mos­phere re­spond to so­lar en­ergy vari­a­tions. These mea­sure­ments will help im­prove our un­der­stand­ing of how much of an im­pact the Sun’s ac­tiv­ity has on our cli­mate.

TSIS moves like a sun­flower, fol­low­ing the Sun from sun­rise to sunset, which is ev­ery 90 min­utes on the ISS

Over the course of the Sun’s 11-year ac­tiv­ity cy­cle, to­tal so­lar ir­ra­di­ance fluc­tu­ates by0.1 per cent

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