Washington: All Earth imagery - consisting of more than 2.95 million individual scenes -- from a prolific Japanese remote sensing instrument operating aboard NASA's Terra spacecraft since late 1999 has now been made available to users everywhere at no cost , NASA announced on Friday.
"The public will have unlimited access to the complete 16-plus-year database for Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) instrument, which images Earth to map and monitor the changing surface of our planet,” the US space agency said in a statement.
ASTER's database currently consists of more than 2.95 million individual scenes. The content ranges from the devastating aftermath of flooding in Pakistan to volcanic eruptions in Iceland and wildfires in California.
Previously, users could access ASTER's global digital topographic maps of Earth online at no cost, but paid METI a nominal fee to order other ASTER data products.
Launched in 1999, ASTER has far exceeded its five-year design life and will continue to operate for the foreseeable future as part of the suite of five Earth-observing instruments on Terra.
"We anticipate a dramatic increase in the number of users of our data, with new and exciting results to come," said Michael Abrams, ASTER science team leader at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, home to ASTER's US science team.
ASTER is used to create detailed maps of land surface temperature, reflectance and elevation.
The instrument acquires images in visible and thermal infrared wavelengths, with spatial resolutions ranging from about 15 to 90 meters.
The broad spectral coverage and high spectral resolution of ASTER provide scientists in numerous disciplines with critical information for surface mapping and monitoring of dynamic conditions and changes over time.
Example applications include monitoring glacial advances and retreats, monitoring potentially active volcanoes, identifying crop stress, determining cloud morphology and physical properties, evaluating wetlands, monitoring thermal pollution, monitoring coral reef degradation, mapping surface temperatures of soils and geology, and measuring surface heat balance, NASA said.