NASA’s Aura Satellite Mission

Although Landsat is NASA’s most well-known satellite program, other missions are providing a wealth of information about our Earth. Aura, a satellite which was launched July 15, 2004, collects data that are used for studying the composition, chemistry and dynamics of Earth’s atmosphere, including ozone levels, air quality, and climate. At the recent American Geophysical Union conference, maps based on Aura data were presented showing the levels of Nitrogen Oxide (a precursor to ozone formation) in the eastern US.

NASA’s Aura mission website and Earth Observing System website

Via Chemical & Engineering News

SkyTruth

Tim Warner mentioned this non-profit organization on this weeks episode and it looks quite exciting. In their own words, “SkyTruth promotes environmental awareness and protection with remote sensing and digital mapping technology.” They support environmental advocates, local planners and others through their remote sensing activities and have been doing so since 2002.

To learn more and to support their efforts check out their website at:

SKYTRUTH: using remote sensing and digital mapping to educate the public and policymakers about the environmental consequences of human activities

Landsat 5 in trouble

On November 26th, Landsat 5 began experiencing problems with its back-up solar array drive, which maintains the proper pointing angle between the array and the sun to charge the batteries. The primary solar array failed last January, so this is pretty serious. Imaging operations have been suspended at least for the next 2 weeks. Landsat 5 was launched in 1984, and was originally designed with a 3-year lifespan, so it has already performed well beyond expectations, capturing over 125,000 images of the Earth’s surface. The loss of Landsat 5 would certainly be a blow to the Landsat program, and those who use its imagery in their research and work.

Via USGS News release and Dr. Tim Warner

Landsat Program website

NASA’s World Wind now has Moon images

A nice article at NYTimes.com (free registration required) highlights NASA’s World Wind viewer and the ten-terabyte satellite imagery archive that is available and now includes imagery of the lunar surface at a resolution of about 66 feet. Be aware, though, that World Wind requires a high-speed, broadband Internet connection and a computer with pretty decent performance.

You can download the free application from NASA’s World Wind website

NASA’s ISS EarthKAM program

I just read an article about a teacher in Maine who has had her students participating in projects based on NASA’s ISS EarthKam project. EartKAM is Earth Knowledge Acquired by Middle School Students, an education program that is centered around a camera currently mounted on the International Space Station. EarthKAM has actually been around since 1996 and has also flown on shuttle missions, so there is a pretty nice archive of images on the website. The images are taken by students themselves, who request specific areas via the Web. It’s a pretty cool program, and is a way to get students interested in geography and the applications of remote sensing.

Check out NASA’s EarthKAM website

Geography and GIS in Land Use/Land Cover research

Dr. Richard Aspinall discusses the role of Geography and GIS in an interdisciplinary approach to studying Land Use and Land Cover Change in an editorial in this week’s Directions Magazine. He argues that GIS and Geography are and will continue to be central to the study of land use and human interactions with the environment. He also discusses a new international program that will focus on these issues called the Global Land Project

European Space Agengy’s Forest Mapping project

The European Space Agency (ESA) has developed a mapping service called Kyoto-Inventory which utilizes satelllite imagery to assist in annual reporting on afforestation, refforestation, and deforestation as part of the Kyoto Protocol, which is an initiative to reduce greenhouse gases. Kyoto-Inventory was a 3-year demonstration project, and will now continue as part of a larger project called GSE-Forest monitoring. The mapping service uses satellite imagery from ERS, Landsat and SPOT to generate forest maps and monitor land cover change.

You can read about the Kyoto-Inventory forest mapping project on the ESA website