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News

New satellite to survey our environment

CSIRO : 16 November, 2000  (New Product)
The condition of Australia's crops, rainforests, mangroves, coral reefs, arid zone and eucalypt woodlands is to come under unprecedented scrutiny from space with the launch of an ultra-powerful new satellite.
Scientists from CSIRO have been chosen as part of a team of ten international scientific institutions to evaluate information gathered by the first Earth Science New Millennium Satellite.

The satellite will be launched by NASA on November 19, as part of the Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) mission. It is designed to showcase the potential of new sensor technologies for mapping and monitoring a number of features of the Earth's surface.

On board EO-1 is a sensor called 'Hyperion', developed by NASA and the US aerospace industry to highlight future potential for this technology. CSIRO Land and Water researchers will work with data from Hyperion to gain a new level of precision in environmental mapping, leading to a better understanding of how to manage our land and water resources.

Hyperion is an 'imaging spectrometer', which takes snapshots of the earth below in hundreds of different spectral bands. Imaging spectrometers can be used to detect and measure the quantity of specific chemicals, minerals, sediments in water or colour in plants.

If this is done in two dimensions in the form of an image, the chemical nature and location of materials on the ground can be accurately identified. This type of detailed analysis has not been possible till now with existing earth observing satellites, which only view the globe in up to seven wavelength regions.

CSIRO Land and Water scientists led by Dr Alex Held, a remote sensing specialist, will test several environmental applications of the Hyperion data over specifically selected research sites. The team will work with colleagues from the CSIRO Earth Observation Centre and the CSIRO Divisions of Mathematics and Information Sciences, Forestry and Forest Products, Sustainable Ecosystems, and Exploration and Mining.

The head of CSIRO's Earth Observation Centre, Dr David Jupp, says Hyperion is an experiment with a new technology for space, which will provide us with a much greater range of information about the earth's surface. Dr Jupp is currently in the US at a science validation team meeting and to observe the satellite launch.

'This is very exciting, because it is the fist time that such a sensor will be in space, and capable of producing repetitive images at a global scale,' says Dr Held.

'In particular, we will be using the data to evaluate its utility in mapping rainforests, mangroves and coral reefs in tropical Queensland, forest conditions in south-eastern Australia, arid and woodland vegetation in the Northern Territory and optical water quality in Moreton Bay, Queensland.'

Hyperion is the precursor for operational satellites like the proposed Australian ARIES-1 satellite, which will be circling the globe for several years, mapping the world's resources and monitoring the changing environment.
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