Incredible images from the European Space Agency's Earth-Observing Satellite Project


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The project, which is part of the ESA's Copernicus program, was created for land and sea monitoring, mapping of natural disasters, and sea ice observation. Here we look at some of the amazing imagery those first 12 months have produced, including incredible cityscapes, meandering glaciers, and the terrain following a magnitude 6.0 earthquake striking California's Napa Valley in August, 2014. Pictured here, the density of Tokyo's urban landscape is shown by bright radar reflections, the polar opposite of the Minami-Bōsō Quasi-National Park pictured to the southwest of Tokyo Bay. Photo: ESA


Poyang Lake, China
An image of China’s Poyang lake from the synthetic aperture radar aboard Sentinel-1a. Photo: ESA

Aral Sea
This image of the Aral Sea, located on the border between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan in Central Asia was created by combining three radar scans from Sentinel-1a. Different colours represent changes between the acquisitions. Source: Copernicus Data/ESA

London appears as a cluster of radar reflections along the River Thames in this image captured using the satellite's Interferometric Wide Swath mode with dual polarisation. Source: Copernicus data/ESA 2015

Antarctica Peninsula
A transect over the northern part of the Antarctica Peninsula acquired using the satellite’s strip map mode with a swath width of 50 miles. Photo: ESA

Napa Valley, California
Following the biggest earthquake in 25 years to strike California’s Napa Valley, Sentinel-1a was able to generate an interferogram showing how the ground moved during the quake by processing two images. This capability marks the beginning of a new era in earthquake mapping from space. Source: ESA/PPO.labs/Norut/COMET-SEOM Insarap

Mount Pinatubo, Philippines
An active volcano, Mount Pinatubo, erupted in 1991, which pushed more particulate matter into the atmosphere than any eruption since Krakatoa in 1883. In the upper-central part of the image, the dark area is Lake Pinatubo, which formed in the summit crater after the eruption. Photo: ESA

Athens, Greece
Greece’s Attica region, with Athens near the center. In the water, different shades of blue indicate different types of sea surface, influenced by currents and waves. The image was acquired in ‘interferometric wide swath’ mode and with a dual polarisation. Photo: ESA

Jakobshavn Glacier, Greenland
35 billion tons of ice calve off and pass out of Greenland's Jakobshavn Glacier as icebergs every year. Photo: ESA

Rub’ al Khali Desert
A radar image of sand dunes in the expansive Rub’ al Khali desert on the southern Arabian Peninsula. Photo: ESA


The European Space Agency's Sentinel mission has completed its inaugural year. Launched on April 3, 2014, Sentinel-1a — the vanguard of a fleet of satellites being launched by the ESA — carries a so-called synthetic aperture radar that provides continuous imagery of the earth's surface no matter what the weather.

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