Tom Nolan Tom Nolan from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory spoke about Earth observing satellites with particular focus on Terra, a NASA satellite carrying a Japanese instrument called ASTER.

Tom Nolan We had a good turnout of about 40 people including students, faculty, and several visitors from outside the University. Tom spoke for 45 minutes before answering questions, which lasted another 50 minutes without showing any signs of stopping. After breaking up the formal Q&A, Tom continued chatting with attendees for another 30 minutes until we finally had to vacate the room.

You can watch a video of Tom’s talk and the formal Q&A session:

You can read Tom’s presentation slides (7MB).



From the unique vantage point of space, scientists use satellites to observe and record things that cannot be seen from anywhere else.

Different instruments aboard the satellites provide many ways of “seeing” Earth. This talk will feature ASTER (Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer), a Japanese instrument aboard NASA’s Terra satellite. ASTER captures high spatial-resolution data in 14 bands, from the visible to the thermal infrared wavelengths, and provides stereo viewing capability for digital elevation model creation. As the “zoom lens” for Terra, ASTER data are used by many other spaceborne instruments for validation and calibration.

Most scientific satellites are set into a Polar Orbit, travelling at 7.8 km/second or 27,000 km/hour. Altitudes vary from 200 to 1,000 km, which determines the breadth of coverage of the observations. Circling Earth approximately every 90 minutes, many satellites can create an entire global map of data every 16 days. Enormous volumes of data are generated that have to be stored and analysed.

The talk will also reflect on how the data from ASTER, and several other Earth-observing satellites, are invaluable in helping us to advance our knowledge about the past, present and future of our planet Earth.

Poster: English, Japanese

Background information for the talk: