Volcanoes, drought and floods: the first images from Landsat 7

December 12, 1999

The images acquired by the new Landsat 7 spacecraft launched April 15, 1999 have exceeded scientists' expectations. With the satellite's state-of-the-art instrument and new computer ground systems, researchers have closely monitored such events as erupting volcanoes in Hawaii, Italy and Latin America, the severe drought in the mid-Atlantic region and the devastating floods in North Carolina.

Landsat 7 Project Scientist Dr. Darrel Williams (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.) will present new results on Dec. 15, 1999, at a press conference titled "Early Results from New Earth Observing Satellites." The 1:30 p.m. press conference will be held in Room 112 of the Moscone Convention Center during the Fall American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco.

In addition to its observations of natural disasters, Landsat is offering scientists a detailed look at unique weather and cloud formation phenomena, and glacial retreats and advances. Landsat 7 also will acquire a nearly complete data set of the world's coral reefs to help researchers keep track of these important ocean ecosystems.

The Landsat 7 mission is being operated under the joint leadership of NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) during its first year in orbit. Goddard is responsible for the development of the spacecraft. The USGS Earth Resources Observation System (EROS) Data Center in Sioux Falls, S.D. processes, archives and distributes the spacecraft data. Landsat 7 continues the monitoring of the Earth's surface, which dates back to July 1972. This constitutes the longest and most complete set of data available for studying global change phenomena.

"We are extremely pleased with the overall mission operations and the images we are receiving," said Williams. Landsat 7 serves an essential role in supporting the U.S. Earth science research goals. Landsat 7 mission operations are designed to accumulate a global, seasonally refreshed, substantially cloud-free data set archived at the USGS EROS Data Center in Sioux Falls.

To date, over 50,000 scenes have been acquired, processed and archived at the USGS EROS Data Center and are available in digital format within 24 hours of collection. The data are sold at the cost of reproduction and distribution --$600 for a standard full scene digital file. Commercial vendors will distribute custom and value-added Landsat 7 products. Also, there is no copyright protection of Landsat 7 data. Once purchased, image data can be copied and redistributed without restriction. This lower cost and ease of duplication restrictions makes possible widespread development of practical applications that could effect all aspects of our daily lives.

Landsat 7 utilizes other technical improvements from its predecessors. The panchromatic instrument onboard allows for spatial resolution of 15 meters, while maintaining sensitivity to the same band wavelengths of previous Landsat instruments. This continuity allows for temporal image analysis, comparing images that may be separated by many years, taken by different Landsat satellites. Also included in the spacecraft's array of tools is a thermal infrared detector, capable of 60-meter resolution.

Landsat 7 is part of a global research program known as NASA's Earth Science Enterprise, a long-term program that is studying changes in Earth's global environment. The goal of the Earth Science Enterprise is to provide people with a better understanding of natural environmental changes. Earth Science Enterprise data is essential to people making informed decisions about their environment.

For more information about the Landsat-7 and the history of the Landsat program, visit the websites at: http://landsat.gsfc.nasa.gov/ or http://landsat7.usgs.gov/ .

NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

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