GEO Update

ASTER: substantial increase in orders of Earth observation images as a result of free and open data policy

Photo: NASA/METI/AIST/Japan Space Systems, and U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team. Morocco´s Anti-Atlas Mountains, which formed about 80 million years ago. Colors signify different rock types: The yellow, orange and green areas are limestone, sandstone and gypsum.Photo: NASA/METI/AIST/Japan Space Systems, and U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team. Morocco´s Anti-Atlas Mountains, which formed about 80 million years ago. Colors signify different rock types: The yellow, orange and green areas are limestone, sandstone and gypsum.

All Earth imagery from ASTER, a Japanese remote sensing instrument on NASA’s Terra scientific research satellite, was released free of charge in April, 2016. Three million images are now available that previously had to be purchased.

“There’s been a substantial increase in the number of orders of Earth” says Michael Abrams, ASTER Science Team Leader at NASA, who witnessed the 100 fold increase in orders when Landsat data was made freely available.

ASTER – Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer – is one of five Earth observation instruments in NASA’s Terra Earth Observation System.

ASTER’s scanner is unique, with high resolution (15 to 90 m2 per pixel) images of the Earth in different wavelengths ranging from visible to thermal infrared.

ASTER data on emissivity and reflectance produce images which show the composition of the bare Earth, with information about rocks and minerals – the only publicly funded instrument with this capability.

ASTER data on land surface temperature is used to monitor and validate measurements on climate change – and to produce data about the planet at night-time.

Finally, as ASTER has the ability to take visual images from multiple angles, it has detailed data on elevation and height – the largest global coverage because of the size of its orbit.

At the 2007 GEO Cape Town Summit in South Africa, the Global Digital Elevation model (DEM) from ASTER, using all 1.5 million images available at that time, was brokered to the GEOSS Portal. A second, and now third version of DEM have been completed.

There are 23,000 one degree latitude by one degree longitude tiles that cover the land surface; to date over 30 million tiles have been ordered.

To download ASTER images go to the USGS site here: http://glovis.usgs.gov/

Or see photos on National Geographic: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/04/160406-pictures-nasa-terra-aster-satellites-space-science/