Meet Sentinel-2a and Sentinel-2B. They are twin satellites operating simultaneously while positioned half-a-world away from each other. Weighing in at 1.2 tonnes each, they orbit our planet together. Sarvenaz explains some of the applications of these amazing satellites.
The Sentinel-2 satellites constantly take photos of the planet. Individually they will take a photo of the same spot every 10 days but working together this is shortened to every 5 days.
As part of the ambitious Copernicus programme run by the European Space Agency (ESA), Sentinel-2A was launched in June 2015 followed by 2B in March 2017. The two satellites are both equipped with powerful imaging sensors which can take photographs from visible and infrared light.
Visual and accessible sources like the images from Sentinel-2 will be essential in driving forward green policies across the globe
Despite operating from an orbit 786 km above the Earth’s surface, they can take photos with a resolution of just 10 metres. The incredible resolution and sensor capabilities means the satellites can observe all sorts of Earth-based activity.
With an ever-expanding population, Sentinel-2 data can guard us against rising deforestation, declining freshwater reserves, and improve farming to help ensure future food security. They can be used to analyse plant health by measuring water and chlorophyl content in the leaves.
The high functioning cameras allow precision digital farming to be taken to the next level. Using images from Sentinel 1 and 2 satellites, farmers are able to optimise crop yield by knowing exactly where natural resources like water, manure and soil are needed.
Sentinel-2 images helped scientists confirm the presence of 11 new emperor penguin colonies
All of the data from the Copernicus mission satellites is free to access and analyse. With climate change deniers and conspiracy theorists pushing us into a post-truth political environment, visual and accessible sources like the images from Sentinel-2 will be essential in driving forward green policies across the globe. For example, quantifiable Sentinel-2 data helps us monitor deforestation around the whole globe, keeping governments and those in charge accountable of their actions.
More than just beautiful images for Alt-J album covers, Sentinel-2 images helped scientists confirm the presence of 11 new emperor penguin colonies in Antarctica through monitoring the staining of snow (pictured above) by their droppings. Their findings can be found in the journal of Remote Sensing in Ecology and Conservation.
Recently the images provided by Sentinel-2 helped emergency services in the Republic of Mauritius assess and continue monitoring an oil spill off the reef of Pointe d’Esny. The satellites’ infrared sensors were put to use in imaging the wildfires ravaging Oregon (pictured below). Using infrared rather than optical allowed researchers to see through the thick smoke.
There’s no doubt that the Sentinel twins will continue providing us with invaluable land and coastal monitoring for the continuation of their lives. The Copernicus mission has proven that clever use of satellite and sensing technologies, coupled with free access to the data can bring a lot of good to society.
Featured image from the European Space Agency contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2017), processed by ESA. CC BY-SA IGO 3.0 Image usage terms found here. No changes made to this image.
In article image of new penguin colony from the European Space Agency contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2016), processed by ESA. CC BY-SA IGO 3.0 Image usage terms found here. No changes made to this image.
In article image of Oregon Wildfires from the European Space Agency contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2020), processed by ESA. CC BY-SA IGO 3.0 Image usage terms found here. No changes made to this image.
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