Petals unfolding on ASTER

The 15-channel imaging system aboard the first of NASA’s Earth Observing System constellation of satellites (Terra) began to demonstrate its potential in November.  The 9 month delay between Terra’s launch in December 1999 and the appearance of its first scientific data irked many potential users, already chewing carpets because of the 18 month delay in the launch.  However, wrangling between ASTER’s designers at ERSDAC, the Japanese space agency, and NASA was resolved by November 17th.  If you are interested, the data can be accessed at the new EOS Data Gateway (edcimswww.cr.usgs.gov/imswelcome/).  Some 70 000 scenes are already “in the can”, but slow processing means that only a trickle of calibrated (Level 1b) data adds to the archive daily, so that cover is very patchy at present.  Nonetheless, quality of cloud-free scenes is excellent, and the new potential, especially for geological challenges, is dramatic.  It is worth noting that the data are in a somewhat difficult format, and can be had either on tape (tar format) or by ftp downloads (file format 125 Mb per scene).  The EOS Data Gateway does plan for release eventually on CDs..

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