A commercial forest seen through the ‘eyes’ of a 3D laser scanning system developed by the ESA-supported Treemetrics company.
The trees of planet Earth – recently estimated to number three trillion in total – are both environmental and economic resources, and require careful stewardship.
“We estimate 20% of global forest resources are currently going to waste as they are harvested,” explains Enda Keane, CEO of Irish company Treemetrics.
“What Treemetrics aims to deliver is more wood from fewer trees, through a complete end-to-end forest management system. It combines forest mapping, assessment and valuing with decision-making tools for harvest planning as well as real-time monitoring of the cutting and collecting process.”
Treemetrics developed a project in collaboration with ESA’s Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems (ARTES) programme’s Integrated Applications Promotion to integrate satellite communications into its system, enabling managers to monitor their equipment and track harvesting as it happens, even from remote forest locations.
The company can perform forest mapping through aerial and drone photography and ‘laser radar’ lidar, as well as satellite Earth observation – using missions including ESA’s Sentinel-1 and Sentinel-2.
These maps are given a third dimension through ‘ground truthing’. Laser scanners perform a 360-degree survey at regular intervals to measure the straightness and health of trees – accurately estimating their quality as logs in advance of them being logged.
Mr Keane adds: “We are very grateful for the great technical, financial and business planning support we received through ESA’s IAP, which enabled the creation of a world class product for the global forest industry.”
The company’s customers to date include state forest agencies in 26 countries, as well as private forest owners and government agencies.
Straight lines do not often crop up in space. Whenever they do, they seem somehow incongruous and draw our attention. The Red Rectangle is one such mystery object.
It first caught astronomers’ attention in 1973. The star HD 44179 had been known since 1915 to be double, but it was only when a rocket flight carrying an infrared detector was turned its way that the red rectangle revealed itself.
This image was taken later, in 2007, by the Hubble Space Telescope’s Advanced Camera for Surveys. It focuses on wavelengths of red light, in particular highlighting the emission from hydrogen gas.
This particular emission has been displayed in red. A second, broader range of orange–red light has also been recorded, and, to increase the contrast, this light has been colour coded blue on the image.
The Red Rectangle is some 2300 light-years away in the constellation of Monoceros. It arises because one of the stars in HD 44179 is in the last stages of its life. It has puffed up as the nuclear reactions at its core have faltered, and this has resulted in it shedding its outer layers into space.
Such a cloud of gas is known erroneously as a planetary nebula because Hanoverian astronomer William Herschel thought they look a bit like the pale disc of Uranus, the planet he had discovered.
The X-shape revealed in this image suggests that something is preventing the uniform expansion of the star’s atmosphere. Instead, a thick disc of dust probably surrounds the star, funnelling the outflow into two wide cones. The edges of these show up as the diagonal lines. Thankfully, while that explains the mystery of the object, it does not detract from its unearthly beauty.
This image was first published in June 2010.
ESA astronaut Tim Peake took this image of London, UK, from the International Space Station 400 km above Earth. At the time it was midnight in the capital city and, because the Space Station runs on Greenwich Mean Time, it was also the same time for Tim Peake.
Tim took this photo from the Space Station’s European-built Cupola observatory.
Such a clear image is rare: not only were there no clouds, but also Tim had the time to set up his camera. The Space Station flies at 28 800 km/h, so only briefly passes over specific points of Earth and its ground track moves along on each 90-minute orbit – so Tim might not get another chance to image London during his six-month stay in space for the Principia mission.
The orbital outpost has to travel at this speed to keep it in orbit, but this only adds another complexity to night-time astronaut photography: to get such a sharp result, Tim had to compensate for the motion of the Space Station. Judging the speed required by trial and error, Tim kept a steady hand for the 1/60 of a second that the shutter was open, tracking the city and keeping it in the viewfinder.
The lights in the image are mainly street lighting, illuminating the streets of London. Lights appearing blue are LED-lit areas. Black areas in the picture correspond to unlit areas such as parks and rivers – the distinctive wind of the River Thames shows in black. Hyde Park, Regent’s Park and Battersea Park are recognisable in the centre, the reservoirs at Walthamstow are upper centre, and Richmond Park is at lower left.
ESA’s 35 m-diameter dish antenna at New Norcia, Western Australia, glows with reflected laser light in this photo, taken by Dylan O’Donnell, a photographer based in Byron Bay, New South Wales, Australia.
The deep-space tracking antenna provides critical communications with missions such as Rosetta, Mars Express and Gaia – all voyaging millions of kilometres away in the Solar System.
Next week, ESA will officially inaugurate a new, smaller 4.5-m satellite-tracking antenna recently built at the station (just a few hundred metres from the big dish). It can quickly and with high precision lock onto and track launch vehicles, such as Europe’s Ariane 5, Vega and Soyuz, and satellites during their critical initial orbits, up to roughly 100 000 km out.
The Agency has invited a group of social media followers to join us at the inauguration for a special, separate programme, including briefings on current and future planetary missions, deep-space communications, ground station engineering and next-generation lasers-in-space technology. Participants will also be guided on an exclusive, behind-the-scenes tour of the ground station facilities and antennas.
Participation in ESA’s social media events is free for selected attendees, but all must follow one of ESA’s social media channels and they cover their own travel and other costs.
Follow the event online on 10 and 11 February via the official hashtag, #SocialSpaceWA
This image is a composite of radar scans by Sentinel-1A on different dates of the Siljan Ring, located in the province of Dalarna in central Sweden.
Dalarna, a historical province known for its deep forests, beautiful fishing lakes and lush green landscapes, is a holiday residence for many Swedes and a favourite tourist attraction.
Sweden’s sixth largest lake, Siljan covers an area of 290 sq km. Its particular shape comes from the location around the southwestern perimeter of the Siljan Ring, a circular geological formation created almost 400 million years ago by a major meteorite impact.
Mainly eroded today, the original crater is estimated to have been some 50 km in diameter. It is the largest known impact crater in Europe and one of the 18 largest known impact craters on Earth.
Three scans of the area taken at different dates were overlaid, with different colours assigned to each: red (7 February 2015), green (15 March 2015) and blue (27 March 2015). The colours represent changes on the ground between the various acquisitions.
Given the location and the time of year, it is safe to infer that the landscape was dominated by vegetated areas, partly or completely frozen lakes and lots of snow. It is probably also safe to assume that most changes are related to variations in snow cover and snow condition.
Focusing on the Siljan Lake, towards the central right part of the image, it is easy to make out the bright red and green lines, which come from changes in the ice edge and cover on the lake, in early spring.
Southeast of the lake area, the town of Borlänge is clearly visible along the Dal River, appearing as bright white. Famous for its medieval cathedral of Stora Tuna and its important rail and bus junction, it became a commercial centre for the surrounding agricultural and industrial areas. The town has paper mills, sawmills, engineering works, foundries, printing establishments and factories.
The strikingly sharp blue to the east of Borlänge probably represents fresh snow, which fell sometime around the end of March and covered the flat agricultural fields, thus changing the ground properties.
Sentinel-1A has been in orbit since 3 April 2014. It is a polar-orbiting, all-weather, day-and-night radar imaging mission for land and ocean services, monitoring the marine environment and mapping water and soil surfaces, among other major applications.
This image is also featured on the Earth from Space video Programme.
Monitoring Earth’s surface every day, ESA’s Proba-V minisatellite has had a ringside seat as the second largest lake in Bolivia gradually dried up. Lake Poopó has now been declared fully evaporated.
The three 100-m resolution Proba-V images shown here were acquired on 27 April 2014, 20 July 2015 and 22 January 2016 respectively.
Occupying a depression in the Altiplano mountains, the saline Lake Poopó has in the past spanned an area of 3000 square kilometres – greater than France’s Réunion Island.
But the lake’s shallow nature, with an average depth of just 3 m, coupled with its arid highland surroundings, means that it is very sensitive to fluctuations in climate.
This image, taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, shows a peculiar galaxy known as NGC 1487, lying about 30 million light-years away in the southern constellation of Eridanus.
Rather than viewing a celestial object, it is actually better to think of this as an event. Here, we are witnessing two or more galaxies in the act of merging together to form a single new galaxy. Each progenitor has lost almost all traces of its original appearance, as stars and gas have been thrown hither and thither by gravity in an elaborate cosmic whirl.
Unless one is very much bigger than the other, galaxies are always disrupted by the violence of the merging process. As a result, it is very difficult to determine precisely what the original galaxies looked like and, indeed, how many of them there were. In this case, it is possible that we are seeing the merger of several dwarf galaxies that were previously clumped together in a small group.
Although older yellow and red stars can be seen in the outer regions of the new galaxy, its appearance is dominated by large areas of bright blue stars, illuminating the patches of gas that gave them life. This burst of star formation may well have been triggered by the merger.
OSIRIS narrow-angle camera image taken on 30 January 2016, when Rosetta was 61.8 km from Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. The scale is 1.11 m/pixel.
More details via the OSIRIS Image of the Day website.
Inside a massive clean room at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland the James Webb Space Telescope team used a robotic am to install the last of the telescope's 18 mirrors onto the telescope structure.
The James Webb Space Telescope is the scientific successor to NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. It will be the most powerful space telescope ever built. Webb will study many phases in the history of our universe, including the formation of solar systems capable of supporting life on planets similar to Earth, as well as the evolution of our own solar system. It’s targeted to launch from French Guiana aboard an Ariane 5 rocket in 2018. Webb is an international project led by NASA with its partners, ESA and the Canadian Space Agency.
Week In Images
1-5 February 2016