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Imaging Earth: Utilising advances in Earth observation

There is a potential treasure trove of scientific knowledge in the variety and amount of data collected through remote Earth observation. But the potential is only half the story – developing ways to effectively use that data is another challenge.

Jack Kaye of NASA spoke to issues surrounding Earth observation by satellites at the 2015 Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) held in February in San Jose, California.

Kaye, associate director for research in NASA’s Earth Science Division, emphasised the variety of data that can be collected from space and the multitude of ways that data can be used to learn more about Earth and its population.

For example, something as simple as comparing the relative intensity of lights at night can be fruitful information for those studying the location and development of populations.

“Night lights are a great way of thinking about human geography,” Kaye said. “You can look at where people are. The North Korea-South Korea border is very clear, because there are very few night lights in North Korea.”

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