Grassroots Mapping for the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill

Recently we featured the Grassroots Mapping project, a community participatory mapping initiative from the MIT Media Lab, on the podcast, and now the Grassroots team has headed down to Louisiana to try to utilize their balloon-based camera system to acquire imagery and map the Gulf oil spill along the Louisiana coast. Their goals are not to replace official imagery and mapping of the disaster, but rather to supplement the information by allowing citizens to provide their own documentation of the event using low-cost balloons to get aerial images for mapping.

If any of you are in the area, and would like to help out with the efforts, you can find more information at the Grassroots Mapping wiki for the Gulf Oil Spill project. There is also an article posted on

10th Anniversary of launch of NASA’s Terra satellite

Terra logoThe data from NASA’s earth observation satellites are critical resources in many areas of research, and it’s important to highlight the achievements of the Earth Observation System program, a multi-national and multi-agency partnership including NASA, JPL, and JAXA. The goal of the EOS program has been to provide comprehensive data sets on Earth’s climate, land cover, clouds, oceans, atmospheric conditions and other variables to help researchers and scholars better understand our planet.

Today marks the tenth anniversary of the launch of NASA’s flagship EOS satellite, Terra, which carries ASTER, MISR, MODIS, MOPITT, and CERES sensors and continues to provide us with amazing data more than four years after its projected six-year mission.

The Terra mission website has a nice retrospective gallery of images from Terra’s first ten years, and here’s hoping it can keep providing us with great data for another ten years!

Cops Can’t Track Car with GPS Without Warrent

The Electronic Frontier Foundation had an interesting piece about two weeks ago that I just ran across.  The Supreme Court of Massachusetts recently ruled that it is against their state constitution for the police to track a vehicle using GPS without court approval.  The interesting thing here is that the crux of their rationale is that the scale of GPS is too great that it interferes with the owner’s “possessory interest”.  To be honest, my understanding of the law is weak enough that I’m not sure what “possessory interest” means and why GPS violates it.  However, older US Supreme Court cases from the ’70’s ruled that beepers were permissible by the police without owner permission.  Basically because GPS is more powerful and more exactly, it is a bigger threat.  New York has similarly ruled that as well.

All in all, the case only has jurisdiction in Massachusetts, but it might set a precedent that Federal courts could follow.

Watch the launch of DigitalGlobe’s WorldView-2 satellite Live!

DigitalGlobe is getting ready to launch its next commercial Earth imaging satellite, WorldView-2, and you can watch the launch live. Although slightly delayed, the plan for WorldView-2’s launch is now set for Thursday, October 8th at 11:38 a.m. Pacific time. The satellite will be launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. WorldView-2 will have an 8-band multispectral imaging capability, including near-IR and near-IR2 bands, which will allow the data it captured to be used for multiple types of remote sensing analyses, including change detection and vegetation analyses. With the spec sheet listing the multispectral resolution at just under 2 meters (panchromatic is at 46cm), WorldView-2 will gather multispectral data at a much finer resolution than that of Landsat products (Landsat imagery is free however).

The launch webcast will be available through Boeing’s website here. (The webcast will be live on the launch day).

California Fires from Space

NASA California Fires from Space 2009

In case you haven’t seen this around, has a nice link round up for NASA’s photos of the current California fires as seen from space.  The smoke cloud is impressive in the most depressing way possible.  The BoingBoing link has links to NASA’s original image and large version, a NYT piece on the fires featuring the image, and some detailed information about the fires from the JPL at NASA.

Remote Sensing Used to Discover Ancient Roman Site

Really, what CAN’T geospatial do?  Researchers out of University of Padua in Italy took aerial photos of an area just north of Venice and discovered what used to be Altinum, a thriving city that existed before Venice.  The site is fairly unique in that it’s one of the few places that haven’t been built upon by later generations, thus making it ripe for study.  The team intends to continue their work using LiDAR and other techniques to help archeologists figure out the best places to continue their work excavating this important site.

Associations/Groups – Remote Sensing & Photogrammetry Society

The RSPSoc – Remote Sensing & Photogrammetry Society is a UK-based academic association that looks at the application to education, science, research, industry, commerce and the public service of RS and aerial imagery. The RSPSoc maintains a significant number of activities and publications. The upcoming RSPSoc 2009 conference will be taking place in Leicester on September 8-11. Publications from the association include the International Journal of Remote Sensing (IJRS), the The Photogrammetric Record (PHOR), a newsletter, and proceedings from the annual conference. The RSPSoc website has a wealth of information including an educational area, public outreach, student community, and special interest groups.

Landsat 5 – 25 years and counting!

landsat5That’s right, it was March 1st, 1984 when Landsat 5 lifted off on a expected 3-year Earth observation mission, and here we are 25 years later, and the old workhorse is still capturing imagery! So, congrats to NASA and Landsat 5 on a quarter century of documenting Earth from space!

You can read the NASA press release on the 25th anniversary of Landsat 5 here, with some interesting tidbits on some of the satellite’s issues over the years and how they’ve kept it orbiting and still capturing imagery.

Sub-glacial antarctic mountains mapped

BBC news has an interesting article on the mapping of the Gamburtsevs which lie under the ice in Antarctica. The article describes the use of radar, magnetic, and sonic/seismic remote sensing methods by a group of scientists, engineers, pilots and support staff from the UK, the US, Germany, Australia, China and Japan. Definitely an interesting read. Head over to check it out.

BBC NEWS | Science & Environment | ‘Ghost peaks’ mapped under ice.