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NASA releases the Aster-Terra Global Digital Elevation Model rendering spectacular 3D topographic maps for civilian users

by Rusti 2011-10-20 12:52

NASA ASTER EOS Terra MissionNASA's Terra spacecraft orbiting the Earth, carries a suite of high precision instruments uniquely designed for the continuous Earth monitoring mission by partnering scientific and research organizations worldwide. Array of instruments comprise NASA’s Earth-Observing System able to accumulate an ongoing record of a wide variety of planetary health indicators, from patterns of carbon storage and cloud cover to Icelandic eruptions, deadly heat, wildfires and oil spills. NASA’s Earth-Observing System provides spectacular views of dramatic events, documenting our planet's ever-changing visage, the historical view of global climate and environment. 


The bright example of NASA’s Earth-Observing System innovative core, the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer, "ASTER" instrument created by Japanese scientists is among Earth-observing flagship tools carried by NASA's Terra spacecraft. Aster captures and compiles the continuous data stream of high resolution images transmitted,  received and stored in the Terra Global Database. Aster provided 260,000 new stereo-pair scans which have been added to Terra's virtual Earth's world map. The two dimensional imaging information alone allowed creation the most detailed digital three-dimensional topographic map of the world to date.

Aster Terra 3D topographic map

The sophisticated methods of sorting, analyzing, draping and arranging the streams of imaging and other types of information provided by Aster and interfacing instruments of the Terra Earth-Observing System open new ways of rendering the topographic maps. Merging several two-dimensional images into a three-dimensional picture of the terrain beneath it sound simple but requires sophisticated algorithms and adequate computing power. The new Aster Version 2 includes the digital elevation data which is vital for success of the Global Digital Elevation Model. The data processing virtualization and visualization mechanisms use land surface temperature, reflectance and elevation information adding value to the topographic diversity of 3D maps. The Aster cameras take images spanning spectrum of infrared and visible light patterns which contributes to building new dimension of Global Digital Elevation Model. 

The amount of captured and stored imaging data reached the level of "critical mass" is sufficient to turn  the accumulated quantity into an innovative move to the new quality of the instrumentation data renderization, allowing for the third dimension in topographic mapping. Topographic maps of have been available for decades, but none come close to providing the level of detail that Aster-Terra three dimensional topographic maps generation and renderization system has produced. Building foundation for new quality of three dimensional topographic mapping generation and high precision rendering took time, the Aster-Terra topographic system monitored and mapped the changing surface of Earth since 1999. The Global Digital Elevation Model and virtual topographic 3D map collection has been newly overhauled, with improved resolution and increased accuracy.

3D topographic map generated by Global Digital Elevation ModelNew Aster-Terra features improved spatial resolution, increased precision of longitude, latitude and elevation coordinates accuracy. It has deeper integration with global positioning system critical GPS navigational information provided by NASA's GPS satellites. 3D topographic maps generated by Aster-Terra system include mixture of elevation data, visible and infrared light and provide complete and realistic coverage over water bodies and the ability to identify a smaller water reservoirs. The stunningly detailed maps would not have been possible using earthbound instruments. The new Aster-Terra Global Digital Elevation Model covers 99 per cent of Earth's surface and produces the highest quality topographic mapping data that can be used as reliable source for a broad range of geology specific and navigational applications, for planning highways, searching for natural resources, and as preloaded high precision maps for GPS navigational equipment and GPS topographic mapping real time update services. The updated Version 2 of the Aster Global Digital Elevation Model is the most complete and consistent global topographic map in the world providing civilian users with the highest resolution and precision of the generated 3D topographic maps.

Aster Terra 3D topographic map from NASA EOS system

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