NASA’s Airborne Sciences program employs ER-2 aircraft — the civilian version of the Air Force U2-S — to carry out its wide-ranging study of different Earth systems. The photo seen here is a self-portrait by pilot Tom Ryan, taken during a 2011 flight to test a laser altimeter prototype for NASA’s ICESat-2 mission. The aircraft typically operates at an altitude of around 65,000 feet.
Right now, three polarimeter instruments are being flown on an ER-2 as part of the Polarimeter Definition Experiment (PODEX), which is paving the way for the future Aerosol-Cloud-Ecosystem (ACE) satellite mission.
You can also find this graphic on NASA’s Climate 365 Tumblr page.