Wednesday, October 27, 2021

CSIRO shares a new eye-in-the-sky satellite, seeing more than before

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NovaSAR-1 data has helped identify the extent of fire scarring Fraser Island. (From left) optical satellite image before fire (Sentinel-2); optical satellite image post fire (Sentinel-2); combined NovaSAR-1 and Sentinel-1 SAR image; classification using SAR data. Orange indicates burnt areas. Alex Held, director of the CSIRO Centre for Earth Observation, said the satellite has cutting-edge equipment that allows it to see with more clarity than other satellites.

“It’s a new type of image called synthetic aperture radar, which is a really good complement to the normal high-definition visual, optical images we can get through editing satellites,” Dr Held said. “It’s great for areas that are under smoke and bushfire haze, but it also sees straight through cloud cover, which is an issue for purely optical monitoring,” Dr Held said.

They had previously used it to monitor bushfire damage as a result of the major bushfires that swept over much of Australia in the summer of 2019-20. “For example, when a cyclone makes landfall, we can watch in real time any damage or flooding that is occurring right through the cyclone itself.”

Dr Held said they had conducted tests with the satellite over the past few years, and most recently used it to map the extent of significant fire damage to Queensland’s Fraser Island late last year. “This one has the added advantage that it can penetrate through cloud, haze and smoke, and things like that, and give us a clear view of what is on the ground.”

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