It’s a baby step, but an important one. NASA reported yesterday that they found the first evidence of an organic molecule in the atmosphere of a planet outside of the solar system. Methane was discovered in the atmosphere of planet HD 189733b (let’s call it planet ‘Moo-cow’ for simplicity) by the Hubble telescope. Plenty of methane has been discovered in the planets of the solar system, so it is far from declaring that planet Moo-Cow has life. However, it is a victory at the least for our remote sensing instruments!
February has definitely been a month for me to play catch-up. I just came across an article from early Feb in the Argus Leader about the new EROS director Eric Clemmons. Apparently he is moving to South Dakota from a position at NOAA where he was involved in their remote sensing group. With Landsat 8 near contract and Landsats 5 and 7 limping along, I would guess that it is an exciting time to be at EROS from the Landsat portion of their activity alone.
The Woods Hole Research Center has been working on the â€œNational Biomass and Carbon Dataset for the year 2000 (NBCD2000) and have just released datasets from the first nine project mapping zones. All NBCD2000 data products can be downloaded on a zone-by-zone basis from the NBCD2000 project website. The datasets are free, but you do have to register at the site. The NBCD project is a really impressive undertaking, utilizing data from Landsat and SRTM, and derived data products like the National Land Cover Dataset 2001, LANDFIRE (vegetation), and the National Elevation Dataset to model biomass zones.
The team’s hope is to continue releasing datasets approximately one every week or so, until the project is completed sometime in 2009. There is an online mapping tool for viewing and querying the progress of the NBCD zone mapping (although it did not seem to be working correctly when I visited the site). A static map image of the current progress can be found here.
Our reader Michelle sent us a quick email to let us know that the USGS has announced that Landsat 5 resumed imaging as of January 10th. Landsat 5 has been experiencing problems with its batteries, and the Landsat team has come up with a new procedure for charging the batteries to try to maintain a safe power balance. No new data has yet been released, but should start becoming available as it is processed.
It is just amazing how well Landsat 5 has lasted (It made its 125,000 orbit back in September) and the incredible efforts by the Landsat team to keep it and Landsat 7 up and running for image collection, and hopefully the good news will continue. If you haven’t checked out the Landsat Project website, you should definitely take a few minutes and browse around through the project history, image gallery, resources and other information on this amazing 35-year remote sensing effort.
The Messenger spacecraft is reporting back the first high resolution images of Mercury taken since the ’70′s. They’re over 3x better than anything we had before. The images are pretty fascinating!
Apparently Korea has lost contact with their Arirang 1 satellite which has been in orbit since 1999. Communications were lost one week ago (Dec 30) and they have been unable to reconnect. As is usual with aerospace engineering, the satellite was intended for a short life cycle (3 years) but had apparently been functioning for 8 years until the loss of communication. With a resolution of 6.5 meters, Arirang 1 was superseded in resolution by Arirang 2 which was launched in 2006 with a resolution of 1 meter. The article linked below suggests that Korea will consider the satellite lost if communications are not reconnected soon.
Although the National Applications Office, which we talked about a couple of months ago, has been put on hold for the time being, there are still lots of issues related to the domestic use of spy satellite imagery. In an article titled Domestic Spying, Inc, Tim Shorrock of CorpWatch (a watchdog group that focuses on investigating corporate corruption and fraud) discusses some of the issues related to the issue of domestic spying and geospatial intelligence, especially the heavy reliance on contractors. He discusses the work done by leading contractors such as BAE Systems and Harris, illustrated through their presentations and exhibits at GEOINT 2007. While Shorrock’s message is cautionary, and focuses on the need to ensure that there is appropriate oversight of the work to be done for agencies like the NGA and the proposed National Applications Office, the article is still an interesting read and raises some relevant issues in geospatial intelligence that we should all be aware of.
At the 4th meeting of the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) that was just held in Cape Town, South Africa, China and Brazil issued a joint statement announcing a plan to provide Africa with free satellite imagery. Ground stations within the African continent will be set up to receive the data from the China-Brazil Earth Resources Satellite (CBERS) Program. The first station, in South Africa, will begin receiving imagery shortly, with others to begin operating in 2008. Researchers and scholars in many countries have relied on Landsat and other US satellites for environmental remote sensing data in the past, but this project shows that increasingly other countries and regions are stepping up and working to continue to provide the data that is needed to understand the impacts of climate issues and even shorter-terms events like natural disasters on the environment.
The European Space Agency’s comet satellite completed it’s second swing around Earth on the 13th of this month. The swing is necessary to gain speed for it’s deep space mission. Along the way, the satellite pointed it’s cameras at the Earth to capture a few snapshots. Most of them center on Antarctica.
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center has released a video today showing visually the ice loss in the Arctic Sea from 1979-2007. The video is pretty impressive showing the degree of loss over the last 30 years or so. The video is linked on the right hand side along with some flat photo images.