5 December 2006
Have you ever wanted to track natural events such as fires, floods and volcanic eruptions as they are happening, or simply explore planet Earth through the eyes of a satellite? ESA has created a website, MIRAVI, which gives you access to the most recently acquired images from Envisat, the world’s largest Earth observation satellite.
MIRAVI, short for MERIS Images RApid VIsualisation, tracks Envisat around the globe, generates images from the raw data collected by Envisat’s optical instrument MERIS, and provides them online within two hours. MIRAVI is free and requires no registration.
“ESA has designed MIRAVI so that the public could have access to daily views of the Earth. Naturally, scientists are already familiar with these data, but we thought these images would be of interest to everyone. Seeing the most recently acquired images of our planet will enable people to witness for themselves the magnificent beauty of the Earth and become more knowledgeable about the environment,” says ESA’s Director of Earth Observation Programmes Volker Liebig.
To access the service, simply visit the MIRAVI website. Browse the very latest images by clicking on the snapshots to the left. View a specific location by selecting an area on the world map or entering its geographic coordinates. MIRAVI also provides archived images starting from May 2006, searchable by date.
Although the images are fascinating and give users the marvellous sensation of being actually ‘onboard the satellite’, they are not suitable for scientific use. Scientists use MERIS products that exploit the instrument’s 15 spectral bands and are generated using sophisticated algorithms. MIRAVI images use only a few spectral bands processed to appear the way the naked eye would see them.
For ESA’s Envisat Mission Manager Henri Laur: “The Envisat mission is a great success for Europe as a major provider of information on the Earth system, including insights into factors contributing to climate change. Since its launch in 2002, Envisat has been continuously monitoring the Earth's land, atmosphere, oceans and ice caps thanks to its ten sophisticated instruments.”
Envisat circles the Earth in polar orbit at an altitude of 800 km, enabling MERIS to acquire global coverage every three days. MERIS measures the solar radiation reflected by Earth, which means that the sun must be present for it to produce an image. Because the sun is low over Nordic areas during the winter, images of Scandinavia for instance are not currently available, except through the archive. The situation will however reverse from March onwards, when images of those areas will be acquired daily. In contrast, Antarctica is visible for the next two months.
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