Currents in the Pentland Firth

Cur­rents in the Pent­land Firth

Between the Scottish mainland and the Orkney island of South Ronaldsay, the water flows at very high speed. The German Aerospace Center (DLR) TerraSAR-X and TanDEM-X radar satellites make it possible to identify and analyse these currents from space.

Image 1/14, Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)
Filigree landscape in Chile's Atacama Desert

Fil­i­gree land­scape in Chile's At­a­ca­ma Desert

This TanDEM-X image shows Salar de Uyuni, the largest salt flats in the world covering 10,000 square kilometres, located next to the volcanic region of the Atacama Desert. The blue to dark blue areas show the lowest lying parts of the salt flats. A trained eye can see the boundaries of rock deposits in the three-dimensional model. This information about landscape features helps us draw important conclusions about the origins and development of the area.

Image 2/14, Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)
Mount Etna in three dimensions

Mount Et­na in three di­men­sions

The first bistatic radar image acquired by the twin satellites TanDEM-X and TerraSAR-X shows the Italian volcano Mount Etna, on the east coast of Sicily. On the left of the image, below the flank of the volcano, the city of Catania can be seen as a collection of bright points. This image, acquired while the satellites were orbiting at a distance of only 350 metres from one another, is the world's first to be made using such a close satellite formation.

Image 3/14, Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)
Ice floes on the coast of October Revolution Island

Ice floes on the coast of Oc­to­ber Rev­o­lu­tion Is­land

In the centre of this TanDEM-X image, ice floes can be seen in the sea ice off the coast of October Revolution Island. They project about 3-10 metres above the sea ice. The smooth structure on the left is the rocky coat of the island. Two glacier tongues that flow into the sea can be seen at the top of the image, to the left and right of a large boulder.

Image 4/14, Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)
Madagascar seen from space

Mada­gas­car seen from space

Even the ups and downs of the waves in the Indian Ocean – coloured pale yellow on the image – are charted by TanDEM-X as it flies over at a speed of seven kilometres per second. The change in the waves at the entrance to the Diego Suarez Bay is clearly visible. The water in the bay itself, on the shore of which the provincial capital, Antsiranana, can be recognised, is very flat – in contrast to the undulating ocean – and reflects the radar signals from TanDEM-X more uniformly. The area of valleys to the south drains the volcanic cone of Ambre-Bobaomby into the Indian Ocean.

Image 5/14, Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)
Mount Erebus, Antarctica

Mount Ere­bus, Antarc­ti­ca

Within the framework of the German TanDEM-X radar satellite mission, the polar regions were surveyed for the first time in a comprehensive and highly accurate manner, which is of vital importance for climate research. The terrain model here shows a region of the Antarctic around the 3794-metre-high Mount Erebus (upper left), an active volcano covered by glacier ice.

Image 6/14, Credit: DLR
Glacier Network, Greenland

Glacier Net­work, Green­land

The measurement of the polar regions by TanDEM-X is so precise that glacier movements can be seen in the centimetre range, and changes in elevation caused by ice melting measured in the metre range. Initial studies have shown that in some regions, glaciers are losing up to 30 metres in thickness per year in the area of the glacier tongues. The colour-coded terrain model shows a region in Northeast Greenland National Park, the largest national park in the world. The Elephant Foot Glacier, which is about five kilometres wide, stands out in the centre of the image. It flows from the mountains to Romer Lake.

Image 7/14, Credit: DLR.
Rainforest clearing, Bolivia

Rain­for­est clear­ing, Bo­livia

Clearing in Santa Cruz, Bolivia: At first glance, nature seems untouched – forest areas crossed by rivers and small mountain chains. Upon close inspection, one can see strip-like structures – wetland surfaces cleared for plantations.

Image 8/14, Credit: DLR
Jeju volcanic island, South Korea

Je­ju vol­canic is­land, South Ko­rea

The island of Jeju, which is located south of the Korean peninsula, is of volcanic origin and has a striking topography. The TanDEM-X terrain model shows Hallasan (lower left), a dormant volcano and, at 1950 metres, the highest mountain in South Korea. In the region, 365 small volcanic mountains, lava and sea caves have formed, which characterise the landscape and vegetation of the island.

Image 9/14, Credit: DLR
Crater landscape of the Nevada Test Site

Crater land­scape of the Neva­da Test Site

The 'Nevada Test Site' was, from 1951, the venue for numerous nuclear tests. The desert area, 100 kilometres northwest of Las Vegas, is dotted with explosion craters.

Image 10/14, Credit: DLR
La Avenida de los Volcanes in Ecuador

La Aveni­da de los Vol­canes in Ecuador

The ‘Avenue of the Volcanoes’ in Ecuador. The left third of the picture is dominated by Cotopaxi. At 5897 metres, this very regular, conical stratovolcano is the second highest mountain in Ecuador. In the surrounding area, the summits of the volcanoes Rumiñawi (4721 metres), Sincholagua (4900 metres), Pasachoa (4200 metres) and Pichincha (4784 metres) are visible.

Image 11/14, Credit: DLR
Richat Structure in Mauritania

Richat Struc­ture in Mau­ri­ta­nia

The Richat Structure in Mauritania. Through volcanic activity, sediment layers from the primeval ocean were pushed to the surface in the Maur Adrar Desert. Saharan winds eroded these over time, transforming the different layers of hard rock intrusions into concentric rings and dips. The distinctive formation is a landmark for astronauts.

Image 12/14, Credit: DLR
Chuquicamata copper mine in Chile

Chuquica­ma­ta cop­per mine in Chile

The Chuquicamata copper mine in northern Chile is the second largest open pit copper mine on Earth. The enormous extent of the pit testifies to the huge mass that has been removed. Covering an area of about 13 square kilometres, the rock has been mined to a depth of over 850 metres. The city of Calama can be seen in the centre of the image, approximately 10 kilometres from the open pit.

Image 13/14, Credit: DLR
TanDEM-X radar intensity map

Tan­DEM-X radar in­ten­si­ty map

The TanDEM-X radar intensity map clearly shows the three lanes created by the Ice Road Trucks. The reason for this is the increased surface roughness of the three lanes. It makes them appear brighter than their surroundings. North is at the top of the image.

Image 14/14, Credit: © DLR.

The objective of the TanDEM-X mission (TerraSAR-X add-on for Digital Elevation Measurement) is to produce a highly accurate, three-dimensional image of our Earth with uniform quality and unprecedented accuracy. 

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