Thursday, September 25, 2014

NASA SERVIR: ISERV tool enables rapid view of Earth images from space

A screen-capture of the new online map showing available images taken by the ISERV camera system

Users can click on a location to see a slideshow of images uploaded by project scientists. 

Credit: NASA

Flipping through online photo albums and social media collections of "selfies" is one thing, but when pictures can show land areas where millions of people live, it can put things in a completely different perspective - especially for scientists.

One of NASA's newest tools for effective Earth observation has been orbiting our planet for more than 15 years.

The International Space Station provides a constant, reliable perspective from which to record changes on the surface of Earth.

A new user-friendly online resource will provide images from a space station camera with nearly two years of images to share.

Danny Hardin, left, an NSSTC senior research scientist from the University of Alabama in Huntsville, trains three researchers from El Salvador to use SERVIR, an NSSTC-developed environmental monitoring system.

Credit: SERVIR

The interface is a world map that links to thousands of images made by the ISERV camera: the International Space Station SERVIR Environmental Research and Visualization System.

With the click of a mouse, the public can access the images with the ISERV Viewer.

People can view and download specific ISERV captures from a collection of more than 4,000 Earth images. ISERV scientists plan to expand the database to about 60,000 by summer 2015.

ISERV was installed as a technology testbed in the Window Observational Research Facility (WORF) on the orbiting laboratory in January 2013 and is scheduled to be removed from operation in 2015.

The camera receives and acts on commands from the ISERV team to acquire image data of specific areas of Earth's surface as the space station passes overhead.

Images from ISERV are uploaded quickly to the web due to a new automated georeferencing capability, allowing imagery to be processed and published much faster.

This is critically important when dealing with a disaster situation. Georeferencing is a process in which points in an image can be associated with geographic locations on a map.

The SERVIR project operates via regional "hubs" in Nairobi, Kenya; Kathmandu, Nepal; and Panama City, Panama, and is coordinated from NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center.

The SERVIR hubs can task the ISERV system to image scenes of Earth's surface in their regions of interest to address environmental issues and disasters.

Much as parents can look back to see how their child has changed over the years, scientists hope that the snapshots gathered by ISERV of land areas before and after environmental changes will improve future response to natural disasters.

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