Proba-2’s microcamera snaps massive Hurricane Irene
The main task of ESA’s Proba-2 is to keep tabs on the stormy Sun but it can also spot storms on Earth. This image of Hurricane Irene was snapped by an experimental camera smaller than an espresso cup.
A flotilla of satellites kept watch on the 800 km-diameter Hurricane Irene as it closed in on the east coast of the United States, but Proba-2 was undoubtedly the smallest: less than a cubic metre in volume.
The microsatellite’s Exploration Camera (X-Cam) acquired this image on 28 August above the Atlantic, between Bermuda and the US mainland.
Observing in the visible and near-infrared with a 100º field of view, the monochrome X-Cam is housed on the underside of the microsatellite, one of 17 new technologies being demonstrated by Proba-2.
The instrument was designed by Swiss company Micro-Cameras & Space Exploration. It is the latest in a series of miniature cameras built by the company for ESA missions such as Proba-2 and SMART-1. One on Rosetta should provide us with the first views from the surface of a comet in 2014.
X-Cam comes with embedded intelligence to let it judge the best automatic exposures for optimal image quality. In future, similar compact imagers could keep watch on satellite surfaces to look out for damage or environmental effects.