Fifteen Years of ASTER Data on NASA’s Terra Platform

Friday, 19 December 2014: 4:15 PM
Michael Abrams, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA, United States and Hiroji Tsu, Japan Space Systems, Tokyo, Japan
The Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) is one of five instruments operating on NASA’s Terra platform. Launched in 1999, ASTER has been acquiring data for 15 years. ASTER is a joint project between Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry; and US NASA. Data processing and distribution are done by both organizations; a joint science team helps to define mission priorities. ASTER acquires ~550 images per day, with a 60 km swath width. A daytime acquisition is three visible bands and a backward-looking stereo band with 15 m resolution, six SWIR bands with 30 m resolution, and 5 TIR bands with 90 m resolution. Nighttime TIR-only data are routinely collected. The stereo capability has allowed the ASTER project to produce a global Digital Elevation Model (GDEM) data set, covering the earth’s land surfaces from 83 degrees north to 83 degrees south, with 30 m data postings. This is the only (near-) global DEM available to all users at no charge; to date, over 28 million 1-by-1 degree DEM tiles have been distributed. As a general-purpose imaging instrument, ASTER-acquired data are used in numerous scientific disciplines, including: land use/land cover, urban monitoring, urban heat island studies, wetlands studies, agriculture monitoring, forestry, etc. Of particular emphasis has been the acquisition and analysis of data for natural hazard and disaster applications. We have been systematically acquiring images for 15,000 valley glaciers through the USGS Global Land Ice Monitoring from Space Project. The recently published Randolph Glacier Inventory, and the GLIMS book, both relied heavily on ASTER data as the basis for glaciological and climatological studies. The ASTER Volcano Archive is a unique on-line archive of thousands of daytime and nighttime ASTER images of ~1500 active glaciers, along with a growing archive of Landsat images. ASTER was scheduled to target active volcanoes at least 4 times per year, and more frequently for select volcanoes (like Mt. Etna and Hawaii). A separate processing and distribution system is operational in the US to allow rapid scheduling, acquisition, and distribution of ASTER data for natural hazards and disasters, such as forest fires, tornadoes, tsunamis, earthquakes, and floods. We work closely with other government agencies to provide this service.