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Photonics for earth observation

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High above us, satellites silently glide through space, offering us a unique perspective of our home planet. But have you ever wondered how these satellites observe earth’s wonders and keep track of its changes? It’s all thanks to photonics, which allows satellites to capture detailed images and data from afar, helping us understand our world in new and fascinating ways.

How satellites see
Think of satellites as earth’s eyes in the sky. Using special cameras and sensors powered by photonics, these satellites capture images of our planet’s surface, atmosphere, and oceans. They can see different wavelengths of light, like the colours we see and even ones we can’t, such as infrared and microwave. By taking pictures in these different light wavelengths, satellites can reveal important information about our planet, like changes in land, vegetation, and weather patterns.

Mapping the earth
Ever wondered how we get those 3D maps of earth’s surface? It’s all thanks to LiDAR, a technology that uses lasers to measure distances. Satellites equipped with LiDAR send out laser pulses towards earth and measure how long it takes for them to bounce back. This helps them create super-detailed maps of our planet’s terrain, showing us mountains, valleys, and even changes in elevation over time.

Seeing beyond colours
Imagine if you could see more than just colours. That’s what hyperspectral imaging does. Satellites with this technology can detect hundreds of different colours, beyond what our eyes can see. This helps scientists identify different materials on Earth, like types of vegetation, soil, and even pollution levels, all from space.

Watching the weather
Satellites aren’t just for taking pictures, they also help us predict the weather. Equipped with special sensors, satellites can measure things like temperature, humidity, and cloud cover in the atmosphere. This data helps meteorologists make more accurate weather forecasts, predict storms, and track changes in climate over time.

Looking to the Future
As technology gets even better, satellites will become even more powerful. We might see satellites with even fancier cameras and sensors, giving us even clearer pictures and more detailed data about our planet. With these advancements, we’ll be able to learn even more about Earth’s wonders and how to protect them for future generations.

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