Category Archives: Earth Observatories

Millennium Tower Sinking?


The sinking of the Millennium Tower has already sunk over 400 mm / 16 inches. As you would expect this is causing quite a lot of problems, summed up nicely by the NY Times.

The Sentinel data is rather amazing in showing how isolated the worst of the phenomenon seems to be.

From ESA:

Data from the Sentinel-1 satellites acquired between 22 February 2015 and 20 September 2016 show that Millennium Tower in San Francisco is sinking by about 40 mm a year in the ‘line of sight’ – the direction that the satellite is ‘looking’ at the building. This translates into a vertical subsidence of almost 50 mm (almost two inches) a year, assuming no tilting. The coloured dots represent targets observed by the radar. The colour scale ranges from 40 mm a year away from radar (red) to 40 mm a year towards radar (blue). Green represents stable targets.

Here’s the full article from ESA.

Copyright:   Contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2015–16) / ESA SEOM INSARAP study / PPO.labs / Norut / NGU

SpaceX Launch Delay


SpaceX was supposed to launch the JCSat-14 today from Cape Canaveral Florida however due to weather concerns the launch as been moved to Friday 06 May at 05:20 UTC. That particular time is also 01:20 ET which means this will be a night time launch. Lucky us!

The JCSat-14 is a communications satellite to serve the Asia Pacific region.  The satellite will replace an older satellite at 154 degrees East longitude and provide improved capabilities.

The picture above is the SpaceX launch of DSCOVR, it’s one of my favorites.

Credit: SpaceX

New View of the Nasca Lines


I haven’t seen a Nasca story in a long time, this is great! Click the image for a much larger view.

From NASA:

In just two ten-minute overflights, an airborne NASA synthetic aperture radar proved it could pinpoint areas of disturbance in Peru’s Nasca lines World Heritage Site. The data collected on the two flights will help Peruvian authorities fully catalog the thousand-year-old designs drawn on the ground in and around the site for the first time, as well as giving them a new tool for protecting the fragile constructions from both careless humans and natural disturbances such as floods.

The top frame shows a portion of the mesa-top site in a Google Earth image. Drainage gullies circle the mesa where the Nasca people constructed lines several miles long, enormous polygons, and animal figures simply by moving rocks. A shape called the Hummingbird is faintly visible above and to the left of the scale line, its long beak ending below a road that cuts diagonally from the right edge of the image to the center.

In the synthetic aperture radar image of the same site, below, areas of disturbance appear dark. There are extensive areas of disturbance around the Hummingbird as well as a pathway down the gully directly above the glyph. Other small disturbances may have been caused by erosion in the dry creekbeds.

NASA’s Uninhabited Aerial Vehicle Synthetic Aperture Radar (UAVSAR), developed and managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, can record changes on the ground beneath the aircraft that occur between multiple flights, which take exactly the same flight path. The instrument is used to monitor how volcanoes, earthquakes, and other natural hazards are changing Earth. Principal investigator Bruce Chapman of JPL noted that UAVSAR is ideally suited for observing the Nasca site because the region has virtually no vegetation and receives no rainfall whatsoever in most years, meaning that natural disturbances are minimal.

Image Credit:NASA/JPL-Caltech/Google


EPIC Earth


So awesome it’s EPIC for real!  A new website was launched by NASA that shows the full sunlit side of the Earth – everyday.  Yes everyday the NASA’s Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC) will take a series of 10 images of the Earth every day and NASA will post them 12 to 36 hours later.  The images are taken by a NASA camera one million miles away on the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR), a partnership between NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Air Force.

See the images.

Visit the DISCOVR mission site.

Image: EPIC / NASA


SMAP Radar Fails

The Radar portion of NASA’s Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) observatory has failed and can no longer return data. The radar instrument stopped sending data on 07 July and the problem was determined to be in the HPA or high power amplifier. The HPA sends a pulse of about 500 watts (a lot for a spacecraft) to be sure they get a good reflection and therefore good data.

A troubleshooting team was put together and on 24 August after exhausting all the possibilities, tried to power up the amplifier without success. The conclusion is the unit probably is not recoverable.

The good news is the the mission, which was launched in January continues to produce high-quality science measurements supporting SMAP’s objectives with its radiometer instrument.


From NASA:
A Three-day composite global map of surface soil moisture as retrieved from SMAP’s radiometer instrument between Aug. 25-27, 2015. Dry areas appear yellow/orange, such as the Sahara Desert, western Australia and the western U.S. Wet areas appear blue, representing the impacts of localized storms. White areas indicate snow, ice or frozen ground.

The SMAP mission is designed to help scientists understand the links between Earth’s water, energy and carbon cycles and enhance our ability to monitor and predict natural hazards like floods and droughts. SMAP remains an important data source to aid Earth system modeling and studies. SMAP data have additional practical applications, including improved weather forecasting and crop yield predictions.

The SMAP spacecraft continues normal operations and the first data release of soil moisture products is expected in late September.

“Although some of the planned applications of SMAP data will be impacted by the loss of the radar, the SMAP mission will continue to produce valuable science for important Earth system studies,” said Dara Entekhabi, SMAP Science Team lead at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/GSFC

MSG-4 First Image


Europe’s latest weather satellite has returned its first image.  Very nice although the image here does not do the original justice – click here and make the image full screen.

The short version of the ESA press release:
Today, the Spinning Enhanced Visible and Infrared Imager (SEVIRI) instrument on MSG-4 captured its first image of Earth. This demonstrates that Europe’s latest geostationary weather satellite, launched on 15 July, is performing well and is on its way to becoming fully operational when needed after six months of commissioning.

The European Space Agency (ESA) was responsible for the initial operations after launch (the so-called launch and early orbit phase) of MSG-4 and handed over the satellite to EUMETSAT on 26 July.

The first image is a joint achievement by ESA, EUMETSAT, and the European space industry. For its mandatory programmes, EUMETSAT relies on ESA for the development of new satellites and procuring the recurrent satellites like MSG-4. This cooperation model has made Europe a world leader in satellite meteorology by making best use of the two agencies’ expertise.

Here’s the long version.

Watching Pluto

Seeing Pluto from Earth can be tough enough. Seeing Pluto occulting a distant star and doing it from a plane is exponentially more difficult that takes an amazing amount of planning and skill.

SOFIA or the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy was up to the challenge and successfully observed Pluto with an infrared telescope, here’s how they did it: