Tag Archives: satellite

Variety of Sensors Tracked Hurricane Matthew

From Sensors & Systems

As Hurricane Matthew developed into a Category 4 hurricane that pummeled the Caribbean and southeastern United States, killing more than 1,000 people, disrupting electricity and other utilities to hundreds of thousands, and causing billions of dollars in economic damage, many of the world’s satellites and sensors were tuned to the storm, and recorded its path and characteristics.

Click below to see several examples:



Swarm Satellites Measure Earth’s Magnetism and Electricity

From Earth Imaging Journal

October 4, 2016

In 2013, the European Space Agency (ESA) launched a trio of Swarm satellites to monitor Earth’s magnetic field. According to a research paper published in Science Advances on Sept. 30, 2016, the satellites were able to measure a faint magnetic field created by oceans that led to discoveries about Earth’s electrical nature.

The magnetic field shields humans from cosmic radiation and charged particles that bombard Earth from the sun. Scientists hope to learn more about this protective field to understand many natural processes, from those occurring deep inside the planet to weather in space caused by solar activity. This information will then yield a better understanding of why Earth’s magnetic field is weakening.

Continue reading Swarm Satellites Measure Earth’s Magnetism and Electricity

Satellites Record Auroras’ Rhythm

Earth Imaging Journal

Sept 14, 2016

An artist’s rendering (not to scale) describes a cross-section of the magnetosphere, with the solar wind in yellow and magnetic field lines emanating from Earth in blue. The five THEMIS probes were positioned to directly observe one particular magnetic field line as it oscillated back and forth every six minutes. (Credit: Emmanuel Masongsong/UCLA EPSS/NASA)

An artist’s rendering (not to scale) describes a cross-section of the magnetosphere, with the solar wind in yellow and magnetic field lines emanating from Earth in blue. The five THEMIS probes were positioned to directly observe one particular magnetic field line as it oscillated back and forth every six minutes. (Credit: Emmanuel Masongsong/UCLA EPSS/NASA)

Using data from NASA’s Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms (THEMIS) satellites, scientists have observed Earth’s vibrating magnetic field in relation to the northern lights in the night sky over Canada. THEMIS is a five-spacecraft mission dedicated to understanding the processes behind auroras, which erupt across the sky in response to changes in Earth’s magnetosphere.

These new observations allowed scientists to directly link specific intense disturbances in the magnetosphere to the magnetic response on the ground. A paper on these findings was recently published in Nature Physics.

To map the auroras’ electric dance, scientists imaged the brightening and dimming aurora over Canada with all-sky cameras. They simultaneously used ground-based magnetic sensors across Canada and Greenland to measure electrical currents during the geomagnetic substorm. Further out in space, the five THEMIS probes were positioned to collect data on the motion of the disrupted field lines.

The scientists found the aurora moved in harmony with the vibrating field line. Magnetic field lines oscillated in a roughly six-minute cycle, or period, and the aurora brightened and dimmed at the same pace.

“We were delighted to see such a strong match,” said Evgeny Panov, lead author and researcher at the Space Research Institute of the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Graz. “These observations reveal the missing link in the conversion of magnetic energy to particle energy that powers the aurora.”

International Space Station Ejecting Cube Sats

Earth Imaging Journal May 31 2016


In May 2016, 17 CubeSats were released by the NanoRacks CubeSat Deployer on the International Space Station. The Dove satellites are part of a constellation designed, built and operated by Planet Labs to take Earth images for humanitarian and environmental applications ranging from monitoring deforestation and urbanization to improving natural-disaster relief and agricultural yields in developing nations.

Unlike traditional satellite missions that carry a significant number of custom-built, state-of-the-art instruments, CubeSats are designed to take narrowly targeted scientific observations, with only a few instruments, often built from off-the-shelf components. The Planet Labs satellites, now with more than 100 in space, fit the CubeSat 3U form factor of 10 by 10 by 30 centimeters and weigh approximately four kilograms.


Methane and Carbon Dioxide Levels Still Rising

From Earth Imaging Journal

May 23, 2016

Maps show atmospheric levels of methane from 2003-2005 and 2008-2010, showing  increased concentrations in the latter dataset (in red). (Credit: IUP, University of Bremen/SRON/JPL/ESA/DLR)

Maps show atmospheric levels of methane from 2003-2005 and 2008-2010, showing increased concentrations in the latter dataset (in red). (Credit: IUP, University of Bremen/SRON/JPL/ESA/DLR)

Satellite readings show that atmospheric methane and carbon dioxide are continuing to increase despite global efforts to reduce emissions. Methane concentrations were somewhat constant until 2007, but since then have increased about 0.3 percent per year, whereas global carbon dioxide levels continue to rise at about 0.5 percent per year.

The results, presented at the Living Planet Symposium in Prague, combine data from the European Space Agency’s Envisat satellite and Japan’s GoSat mission. The upcoming Sentinel-5P mission for Europe’s Copernicus program is set to continue data collection on methane and other components of atmospheric chemistry by scanning the whole globe every day.

“For the future, Sentinel-5P will be very important, in particular because of its very dense, high-resolution observations of atmospheric methane, which have the potential to detect and quantify the emissions of important methane-emission hotspots such as oil and gas fields,” noted Michael Buchwitz from the Institute of Environmental Physics of the University of Bremen in Germany.

The atmospheric data products cover 2003-2014 and are available at http://www.esa-ghg-cci.org/.


Embracing Commercial Space-NRO Director Betty Sapp

talks commercial launch, small sats, and new contracting methods.

by Warren Ferster  May 18, 2016

Trajectory Magazine

The National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) is taking full advantage of emerging commercial space and information technology capabilities including launch, NRO Director Betty Sapp declared in a Wednesday keynote at GEOINT 2016.

NRO already has contracted for launches from SpaceX, Sapp said, but did not provide any details of the missions since much of NRO’s work is classified. Founded by celebrity entrepreneur Elon Musk, SpaceX recently broke United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) longtime monopoly on the U.S. national security launch business by winning a contract to launch an Air Force GPS satellite. ULA, a Boeing-Lockheed Martin joint venture, declined to bid on that contract.

Sapp praised SpaceX for having success with what she characterized as an “unconventional” approach to satellite launch. SpaceX’s workhorse Falcon 9 rocket has a first stage powered by nine relatively small engines, a design scheme that raised skepticism before the rocket ran off a string of successful missions.

“We have bought launches from SpaceX—they’re a great partner for us,” Sapp said, adding the company has “challenged the conventional wisdom in the launch industry with great success.”

Launch is just one of the areas in which NRO is leveraging commercial investment and innovation. The agency is also taking advantage of the small satellite revolution, which coupled with the emergence of low-cost launch options is enabling missions NRO previously would not undertake, Sapp said.

The NRO is known for building large, unique, and very complex and expensive satellites to carry out its missions. But Sapp said the agency is now flying satellites of all sizes, including cube sats. Although the NRO initially used cube sats as a low-cost means of testing promising technologies in space, it is now using them for operational missions, Sapp said.

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Discovery of Ancient Site Could Change American History

From Science Alert:  VIKINGS
The discovery of a mysterious, ancient site could rewrite the history of Vikings in America

They were here before Columbus.

1 APR 2016

But since the discovery of the first settlement, nothing else has been found. Until now, that is, because archaeologists might have found a second settlement. And this time, they used satellites.

When analysing this data, Parcak marked numerous ‘hot spots’ – areas that may have had human settlements. However, one spot stood out among the rest because it was a severely ‘dark stain’ of vegetation that appeared man-made.

Excited by this prospect, Parcak and her team set out to study the site, which they’ve dubbed Point Rosee.

Using a magnetometer, which measures anaomalies in the magnetic field of a certain area, the team found that the region contained high levels of iron and signs of metallurgy that Vikings were known for.

Also, objects pulled from the site were dated to the Norse era using radiocarbon techniques, Blumenthal reports. Though it’s still mysterious, the team also thinks there could be a structure buried beneath the site, which will get excavated later this year.

Needless to say, there’s a treasure trove of questions for the researchers to answer, and a lot of work ahead of them.

Parcak’s work was documented by PBS for an episode of their science series NOVA, which will air on 4 April 2016. You can check out the trailer here.

Hopefully, when excavation starts, the team will find a bunch of ancient relics that will inform us further on the everyday lives of Vikings – one of the most discussed and popular groups in all of history.

Wildfire Monitoring, Space-Based Sensors To Circle The Globe

From SatNews Daily Nov. 22, 2015

[Satnews] Wildfires can wreak havoc on human health, property and communities, so it’s imperative to detect them as early as possible.

That’s why NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, is developing a network of space-based sensors called FireSat in collaboration with Quadra Pi R2E of San Francisco. FireSat would be a constellation of more than 200 thermal infrared imaging sensors on satellites designed to quickly locate wildfires around the globe. Once operational, FireSat would represent the most complete monitoring coverage of wildfires ever from space.

The FireSat sensors would be able to detect fires that are at least 35 to 50 feet (10 to 15 meters) wide, within an average of 15 minutes from the time they begin. Within three minutes of detecting a fire from orbit, FireSat would notify emergency responders in the area of the fire, improving support for time-critical response decisions. The sensors and their associated products for data analysis would also be able to locate explosions, oil spills and other dangerous events involving high heat around the globe.

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