Australia to publish live, free, satellite images

Landsat 8 images to hit the web under Creative Commons licence


Australia will publish images captured by soon-to-launch satellite Landsat 8 online, in close to real time, for free.

Landsat 8 will launch in early 2013 and is expected to be fully operational by May or June of that year. Once the bird begins beaming back images, Geoscience Australia (GA) will publish them online under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Australia licence.

“We want to make as much data freely available as possible,” says Jeff Kingwell, the Section Leader of GA’s National Earth Observation Group. “We will move towards a system where we are taking Landsat data in, in near real time.” Data will be corrected to make it usable, then published, all in as close to real time as is practical.

The new service will be possible thanks to a new agreement between Australia and the USA that has seen Australia once again sign up as a formal partner in the Landsat program, which has sent seven satellites into orbit to capture images of earth. Australia provides ground stations for Landsat, in Hobart and Alice Springs, and will do so again for Landsat 8. A new Australian ground station, in Darwin, is under way and will allow capture of images of more locations.

There’s plenty of data to deal with, as Landsat’s orbit means is flies over Australia every day, sometimes three times a day.The images captured on each pass depict a 185km-wide strip of Australia.

Resolution is not massive – the Landsat Data Continuity Mission website says the new satellite will capture images at 15m-100m resolution – but the satellite and its predecessors were never intended to get close up. Instead, the satellites’ intended applications help all manner of industries to understand land use over time.

Kingwell says Landsat data is appreciated by those who conduct “broad acreage monitoring such as looking at deforestation, vegetation changes and urban expansion.” Their efforts will be assisted by GA’s decision to retrieve its ten-year-plus archive of Landsat images – estimated at half a petabyte - and make them available online. That longitudinal archive is expected to make long-term land use analysis easier.

Just how GA will pull off the delivery of live images is yet to be determined. Kingwell says the agency is making preparatory upgrades to connect to Landsat 8, but has not made any decisions about the web applications needed to deliver data to the public. The agency should, at least, have plenty of storage on hand to deal with the influx from Landsat: it tendered for a 50-petabyte rig a couple of years ago.

But storage won’t be the hard part, as the agency expects it will be deluged with requests for the images.

“The experience of the US Geological Survey when they moved to free to air service available online was that usage went up by a factor of 1000,” Kingwell told The Register.

GA has therefore commenced collaboration with Australia’s National Computational Infrastructure to get its hands on the grunt it will need to process incoming data.

GA has also famously undertaken an extensive re-platforming project for its data, so it can be more easily managed and accessed by the public. That effort has seen GA move some 400,000 older tapes onto IBM’s 3592 format over the last few years. Some older Landsat data will be re-platformed for the new archive. ®

Broader topics


Other stories you might like

  • Experts: AI should be recognized as inventors in patent law
    Plus: Police release deepfake of murdered teen in cold case, and more

    In-brief Governments around the world should pass intellectual property laws that grant rights to AI systems, two academics at the University of New South Wales in Australia argued.

    Alexandra George, and Toby Walsh, professors of law and AI, respectively, believe failing to recognize machines as inventors could have long-lasting impacts on economies and societies. 

    "If courts and governments decide that AI-made inventions cannot be patented, the implications could be huge," they wrote in a comment article published in Nature. "Funders and businesses would be less incentivized to pursue useful research using AI inventors when a return on their investment could be limited. Society could miss out on the development of worthwhile and life-saving inventions."

    Continue reading
  • Declassified and released: More secret files on US govt's emergency doomsday powers
    Nuke incoming? Quick break out the plans for rationing, censorship, property seizures, and more

    More papers describing the orders and messages the US President can issue in the event of apocalyptic crises, such as a devastating nuclear attack, have been declassified and released for all to see.

    These government files are part of a larger collection of records that discuss the nature, reach, and use of secret Presidential Emergency Action Documents: these are executive orders, announcements, and statements to Congress that are all ready to sign and send out as soon as a doomsday scenario occurs. PEADs are supposed to give America's commander-in-chief immediate extraordinary powers to overcome extraordinary events.

    PEADs have never been declassified or revealed before. They remain hush-hush, and their exact details are not publicly known.

    Continue reading
  • Stolen university credentials up for sale by Russian crooks, FBI warns
    Forget dark-web souks, thousands of these are already being traded on public bazaars

    Russian crooks are selling network credentials and virtual private network access for a "multitude" of US universities and colleges on criminal marketplaces, according to the FBI.

    According to a warning issued on Thursday, these stolen credentials sell for thousands of dollars on both dark web and public internet forums, and could lead to subsequent cyberattacks against individual employees or the schools themselves.

    "The exposure of usernames and passwords can lead to brute force credential stuffing computer network attacks, whereby attackers attempt logins across various internet sites or exploit them for subsequent cyber attacks as criminal actors take advantage of users recycling the same credentials across multiple accounts, internet sites, and services," the Feds' alert [PDF] said.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022