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Earth observation: Sentinel-1A first images underline societal benefits of Copernicus Gepubliceerd op: 08/05/2014, Laatste bijwerking: 17/06/2014

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European Commissioner Michel Barnier, acting Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship, said: "It is now clear that Copernicus will provide reliable, validated and guaranteed information in support of a broad range of environmental and security applications. By observing the Earth can we ensure a safer world. At the same time we will open up new business opportunities for SMEs."

Today the European Commission and the European Space Agency have published some of the first high quality images delivered by Sentinel-1A launched on 3 April 2014.

The images on the state of sea ice, the sea and of the land underline that Copernicus, the largest civil Earth Observation programme ever conceived, is progressing according to plan. The programme will contribute to an improved and more frequent observation of Earth sub-systems, including the atmosphere, oceans, and continental surfaces. Images from Sentinel 1-A, the first satellite of the Copernicus constellation, are produced with state-of-the-art radar imaging technology. By using microwave frequencies, radar satellites can see through clouds and storms (unlike optical sensors) acquiring imagery regardless of the weather. Moreover, radar sensors carry their own illumination source, in the form of radio waves transmitted by an antenna. This means that the radar can be used with equal effectiveness at any time of the day and night.

Sentinel-1 data will be made available systematically and free of charge to all users including public authorities (at European, national and regional levels) the general public, and scientific and commercial users. Furthermore, for emergency response, radar data can be delivered within an hour of image acquisition for Near Real-Time (NRT) image delivery.

Press release


Sentinel Island

Acquired by the Sentinel-1A satellite on 22 April 2014, this image shows part of India’s Andaman and Nicobar islands in the eastern Indian Ocean. The bright white and somewhat round island to the west is North Sentinel Island. This image was acquired in ‘strip map’ mode with a dual polarisation in VV and VH. In the close-up of North Sentinel, colours were assigned to different types of radar polarisations.

Credits: ESA [Full size picture]

Ice chart

Ice charts are the primary means of providing near real time ice information to mariners, and are traditionally drawn manually from available satellite data. The first Sentinel-1A ice chart was drawn from an image acquired at 10:10 UTC on April 26 2014.

Credits: ESA/DMI [Full size picture]

Oil platforms

The bright spots in the image are oil platforms off the coast of Norway. The black areas show where water is released by the platforms. This water contains a small amount of oily substances – though not enough to be in violation of regulations. The radar on Sentinel-1A has the sensitivity to identify these events.

Credits: ESA [Full size picture]

Wave imagette

Left: Sentinel-1A acquisition segment in Wave Mode over the Pacific Ocean. The 42 Wave Mode imagettes are indicated as dots and the background colour stands for significant wave height as predicted by Wave Watch 3 (WW3) model run at Ifremer.

Right: ‘Quicklook’ corresponding to one Sentinel-1A imagette. The modulation of the sea surface roughness is caused by swell propagating across the Pacific Ocean. Although Sentinel-1A commissioning phase is not finished yet, first data acquired over oceans are already full of promises for ocean wind, wave and current measurements

Credits: ESA, Ifremer, OceanDataLab, Norut, CLS [Full size picture 1 and 2]

Land cover mapping

Land cover map over an area of central Germany based on early data from the Sentinel-1A satellite. Forests are green, while water is coloured blue and urban areas are red. Winter crops appear light green, while bare fields are brown.

Credits: ESA/University of Jena
[Full size picture]

Ice in motion

According to recent surveys, Austfonna – the largest ice cap in Svalbard – has fluctuated little over recent decades. However, a unique combination of measurements acquired by ESA's Sentinel-1A (in April 2014) and DLR's TerraSAR-X (in February 2014) missions has revealed an extraordinary acceleration in ice motion in the southeastern section, which is now flowing at speeds in excess of 3 km per year. It remains to be seen whether the abrupt speedup reflects natural variability in the ice cap motion, or whether it is a symptom of regional climate change. Given the astonishing success of these early mission data, we can be confident that Sentinel-1 will provide the tools to answer this intriguing question.

Credits: ESA/DLR/University of Leeds [Full size picture]

Disaster and emergency support

This image shows the extent of flooding in the Caprivi plain from the Zambezi River in Namibia. Sentinel-1A acquired this image in its main ‘Interferometric Wide Swath’ mode with a swath width of 250 km and in dual polarisation. Related information allows civil protections and authorities to precisely know the extent of large floods and better manage the crisis situations.

Credits: ESA [Full size picture]

European Commissioner Michel Barnier, acting Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship, said: "It is now clear that Copernicus will provide reliable, validated and guaranteed information in support of a broad range of environmental and security applications. By observing the Earth can we ensure a safer world. At the same time we will open up new business opportunities for SMEs."