Status Report

NASA Satellite Reveals Grandeur of Arizona’s Grand Canyon

By SpaceRef Editor
October 19, 2011
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Arguably one of America’s most magnificent national parks is the Grand Canyon in northern Arizona. The Aldvanced Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) instrument on NASA’s Terra spacecraft captured this 3-D view on July 14, 2011, created by draping the ASTER image over a Digital Elevation Model produced from ASTER stereo data. In this perspective view looking to the northeast, the buildings and roads in the center foreground are Grand Canyon Village. The Bright Angel Trail can be seen descending 3,000 feet (914 meters) to Indian Garden, before continuing to the Colorado River far below. Completing the 25-mile (40-kilometer) rim-to-rim hike takes the hiker to the North Rim and the North Rim Lodge. The ASTER image is located near 36 degrees north latitude, 112.1 degrees west longitude.

With its 14 spectral bands from the visible to the thermal infrared wavelength region and its high spatial resolution of 15 to 90 meters (about 50 to 300 feet), ASTER images Earth to map and monitor the changing surface of our planet. ASTER is one of five Earth-observing instruments launched Dec. 18, 1999, on Terra. The instrument was built by Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. A joint U.S./Japan science team is responsible for validation and calibration of the instrument and data products.

The broad spectral coverage and high spectral resolution of ASTER provides scientists in numerous disciplines with critical information for surface mapping and monitoring of dynamic conditions and temporal change. Example applications are: monitoring glacial advances and retreats; monitoring potentially active volcanoes; identifying crop stress; determining cloud morphology and physical properties; wetlands evaluation; thermal pollution monitoring; coral reef degradation; surface temperature mapping of soils and geology; and measuring surface heat balance.

The U.S. science team is located at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. The Terra mission is part of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C.

More information about ASTER is available at

Image credit: NASA/GSFC/METI/ERSDAC/JAROS, and U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team Largerimage

SpaceRef staff editor.