TanDEM-X (TerraSAR-X add-on for Digital Elevation Measurement) is one of two twin German radar satellites in Low-Earth orbit. It flies in formation TerraSAR-X about 250-500 meters apart and the distance between the satellites is known to within one millimeter. The resulting stereo measurements have allowed DLR to create a digital elevation map of Earth's surface accurate to one meter. That means the satellites can detect a change of 0.0002% in elevation!
"Processing this data was an exciting challenge for us," explains Richard Bamler, Director of DLR's Remote Sensing Technology Institute. "We are now all the more fascinated by our initial scientific findings. Using the current elevation model, we have shown that in some regions of Earth, glaciers are losing up to 30 metres in thickness per year in the area of the glacier tongues."
The release of this map is far from the end of the mission. Earth’s surface is continually evolving due to both natural and human forces, so the data will be continually updated to reflect changes due to both climate and environmental reasons as well as urban development. I highly recommend browsing the online gallery and pondering this amazing technological accomplishment.
Here's some more geek from the week:
- The science behind how seals and otters stay warm in cold water. SPOILER: it's not body fat.
- The "deep reefs" of Hawaii are now coming into view thanks to new diving technology.
- Stanford engineers invent a tiny device to purify water using solar power.
- The White House Science Council finds the forensic science of bite marks to be invalid.
- Amazing story of a woman recreating her friend via artificial intelligence after his death.
- MIT created an interactive site that allows you to judge the moral decisions driverless cars will have to make.
- Geologists have discovered a new fault line under the Salton Sea, parallel to the San Andreas.
- The physics behind the strength of Luke Cage's unbreakable skin. [VIDEO]
- Check out this fantastic summary of what's going on in the Solar System for the month of October by Emily Lakdawalla at the Planetary Society. (BONUS: she does one every month)
Keep on geeking!
@Summer_Ash, In-house Astrophysicist