As record-breaking heat buckled pavements and hospitalized hundreds across Texas at the start of summer, another disruption occurred unseen: Operators in the largest U.S. energy basin released hundreds of tons of natural gas into the air as crucial equipment was forced to shut down.

That unleashed a geyser of planet-warming methane, the main component of natural gas, into the atmosphere. The spurt of emissions wasn’t unprecedented; extremes of both hot and cold have wreaked havoc in the Permian Basin in the past.

But this time there was a new witness. As it happens, a new telescope orbiting the Earth captured an unprecedented picture of the climate damage. Known as EMIT, the sensor rides on the underbelly of the International Space Station, which zoomed past the field in West Texas and New Mexico on five different days of the heat wave and documented huge clouds of escaping methane gas. The observations, described here for the first time, show how advances in technology are ushering in a new era of accountability.