NASA’s Messenger gives us the first ever image from orbit above Mercury

NASA’s Messenger (MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry and Ranging) spacecraft is already sending us amazing imagery of the surface of Mercury as it orbits the planet on a mission to obtain information about Mercury and what it’s made of. This image, released by NASA yesterday, is the first image of Mercury taken from orbit:

Messenger is the first man-made satellite to orbit Mercury, although Mariner 10 sent back images during a flyby in the mid-1970s. Check out NASA’s Messenger mission page for lots more information and images as the mission progresses.

Via Gizmodo

Old poll, new poll: March 2011

Back in January we asked the question “Which Esri Tech Certification are you thinking about?” and we received 88 responses which broke down to:

  • ArcGIS Desktop Associate/Professional – 39%
  • Web Application Developer Associate – 8%
  • Enterprise Geodatabase Management Associate – 1%
  • Enterprise Administration Associate – 1%
  • More than one – 14%
  • Not interested – 37%
  • Our new poll takes up to the sky and the sensors looking down on us. The question is “What type of plans do you have for Earth Observation Day (April 8)?” Your choice of answer is:

  • Hosting an event
  • Attending an event
  • No plans
  • New Jersey’s lost acres

    It’s amazing how often life immitates blog. For a class on qualitative GIS, I put together a Google Earth narrative history of growing up in north west New Jersey. I started with an up close Google Earth view of the lush green forested mountains and rolling farmland hills that I think of when I think of my home state, but I didn’t actually say where I was from until I zoomed out to show the shape of NJ. If I could have found a heart shaped shape file to use, I would have. It is interesting to geospatially visualize the dramatic growth that has happened in New Jersey in a relatively short period of time.

    This is why I enjoyed reading the New York Times article from August 2010 which reviews a report done on “Changing Landscapes in the Garden State” by Rowen and Rutgers Universities. Rowan University hosts an interactive companion site of animated maps from their report to illustrate two decades of urban growth and open space loss in New Jersey from 1986 through 2007. The report and interactive maps are part of an ongoing collaboration between the Geospatial Research Lab at Rowan University and the Center for Remote Sensing and Spatial Analysis at Rutgers University examining New Jersey’s urban growth and land use change.

    2011 DigitalGlobe – IEEE GRSS Data Fusion Contest

    Until I got an email today, I had forgotten I’d signed up for the 2011 DigitalGlobe – IEEE GRSS Data Fusion Contest which is due by by May 31, 2011. I am under no illusions that I know enough to win the contest or even enough to finish a contest entry, but I know that many of you could give it a good show. The Data Fusion Contest has been organized by the Data Fusion Technical Committee. It is uses a set of WorldView-2 multi-sequence images collected over Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) that have been provided by DigitalGlobe. Each participant decides the research topic and application they want to submit. Submissions are in accordance with the IEEE International Geoscience and Remote Sensing Symposium guidelines.

    The IEEE is also asking for survey input on a new IEEE-GRSS journal tentatively entitled the “IEEE Journal of Geoinformation Science and Engineering” (JGSE) created do to the increasing crossover of geoinformation science and engineering

    Remote Sensing and Freshwater

    This post was written as a guest post for the MyWonderfulWorld blog for Geography Awareness Week. Be sure to head over and check out more of the MWW blog-a-thon for GAW.

    Continuing Geography Awareness Week, we would like to talk about a topic that brings together geospatial technologies (it is GIS Day after all) with this year’s Geography Awareness Week theme of Freshwater. Water quality assessment is a crucial issue in many parts of the world due to causes such as pollution in manufacturing countries, scarcity in arid regions, and issues of access in urban areas. While Earth Observation Day is still a few months away (April 8, 2011), we wanted to take a look at geographic information gathered from remote sensing technologies to understand how this imagery can be used in studying water quality and other water-related issues.

    There are a number of remote sensing studies that have taken advantage of spectral responses of specific phenomena to look at how light of different wavelengths can capture various water quality issues including sediments suspended in water, algae blooms, aquatic plants, and water temperature. Additional studies of these spectral responses have also been used to derive information on salinity (pdf) , water clarity, and other water topics. The United States and the European Union, for instance, both have water quality mandates that have been supported through the use of remote sensing imagery, and they are not alone in the use of such imagery to address this need.

    In addition to studies that look at water quality, remotely sensed data has also been used to support a wide range of studies that deal with other water issues, such as identifying spatial changes in water bodies, by providing researchers with detailed views of an area. For example, remotely sensed data has been crucial in monitoring the contraction of the Aral Sea in central Asia, as well as other important bodies of water throughout the world. Other examples include mapping oil spills such as the spill this past summer in the Gulf of Mexico oil spill or change detection to track snow pack or glacial melt.

    While information derived from aerial or satellite images can support the large area assessment of surface water sources, it is often supported through the use of other location information/technologies. In-situ sensors are used by agencies such as the USGS. A network of fixed location sensors is maintained that can be used to ground truth certain aspects of water quality. In the case of studies that look at locations other than those with static location sensors, GPS receivers are used to record locations, such as in the case of randomly sampled ground truth test sites.

    Of course, the information that is captured and classified using remote sensing can be fused with other types geographic information to provide users and consumers with a contextual, and often richer, understanding of water quality issues. An article from the Summer 2009 issue of Imaging Notes, for example, talks about some of the GIS tools that are used in water quality modeling. The wealth of tools that can be brought to bear to assess water quality issues are growing and now include a number of geospatial technologies. So remember, even though we only celebrate Geography Awareness Week and GIS Day once a year, there are many amazing resources and research projects out there that utilize remotely-sensed information to help us understand and try to solve many of today’s pressing environmental issues, including water quality and availability.

    More on Earth Observation

    This week’s main topic on the podcast focused on the role of Remote Sensing and Earth Observation. It seems to have been an unintentionally timely topic as the International Astronautical Conference is going on this week (Sept 27-Oct 1). News/press has already come out of the conference about some future satellites that will be up and running in the next few years. Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) plans to launch 3 satellites by 2013. The sensors on these satellites will range from high resolutions (1m and 4m pixel) to moderate resolution (20m pixel) with the potential to capture 600km swaths.

    In association with the announcement, Sir Martin Sweeting, executive chairman of SSTL discussed the seed money that allowed SSTL to spin off of University of Surrey going on to say: “We’re not asking government to fund grand space programmes,” he told BBC News. “But there are some technologies and some business cases that we need the help of government just to get us over the hump – to get the wheels turning.”

    I still think that we should of course continue to spend government money on satellites for earth observation purposes, though I am excited about the growth of the commercial sector in this area as well.

    Great video introduction to the National Map

    One of the fun things I get to do in prepping for my classes is getting to look at all the amazing video resources out on the interwebs for Geography and geospatial technologies. While putting together my Intro to Mapping lecture, I remembered this great 6-minute video introduction to the National Map, including a little bit about the history of the USGS’s role in mapping the US, how digital technologies are changing mapping, and the development of the National Map and its functionality. Even if you saw the video when it came out back in January, it’s still a great reference for what the National Map is all about.

    NASA Earth Science Hurricane Katrina retrospective

    To mark the five-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s devastating landfall in the Gulf Coast, NASA Earth Science has released this short video retrospective of some of the imagery and analyses that were used to track and visualize Hurricane Katrina

    ERDAS releases Apollo on the Cloud

    ERDAS has entered the cloud service race with the announcement of Apollo on the Cloud. It is a hosted solution that provides access to Apollo Professional on SkyGone’s servers. We have talked to Mladen Stojic about Apollo on the podcast in the past which is one of ERDAS’s newer products that provides that layer of abstraction that many enterprises are looking for between the geotechnologies and the casual user…aka the guy at the desk. With a browser-based viewer, integration with Titan, and standards compatible there are plenty of ways for the user to connect to the service. On the backend you get all of the power that Apollo offers in serving data, running geoprocessing services, and creating user experiences. If you are looking for a way to centralize the processing of your remote sensing data and do not want to host a solution locally or don’t have the dedicated IT staff to do so, this is worth a look.