May 01, 2012
ASAR acquired this image of Spitsbergen—Norway’s largest island—on September 6, 2011. The gray scale image shows Spitsbergen’s rugged landscape of high peaks and sprawling glaciers.
Image Credit: European Space Agency
On March 1, 2002, the European Space Agency (ESA) launched Envisat, which the agency has called the “largest Earth-observation satellite ever built.” Envisat was built to operate for five years, so its tenth anniversary this week is a pleasant surprise for its engineers and for Earth scientists.
Envisat carries ten optical and radar sensors designed to monitor Earth’s land cover, ocean color, ozone layer, pollutant plumes, land and sea temperatures, and surface topography. It’s largest instrument is the Advanced Synthetic Aperture Radar (ASAR), which is capable of sensing the planet surface through clouds and darkness. That ability has enabled scientists to monitor Earth’s poles, which are subject to months-long winter nights and frequent storms.
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