Japan’s new satellite sends back its first image

Japan’s new satellite sends back its first image

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Japan’s recently launched Advanced Land Observing Satellite (ALOS) has sent back its first pictures of Earth – Mt Fuji and its surrounding towns. The satellite was launched on January 24, 2006, and it contains three onboard instruments for Earth observation. One instrument is called the Panchromatic Remote-sensing Instrument for Stereo Mapping (PRISM). It’s capable of taking many 3-D images quickly and accurately. ESA is supporting ALOS as a ‘Third Party Mission’, which means the agency will utilise its multi-mission ground systems of existing national and industrial facilities and expertise to acquire, process and distribute data from the satellite to users. Mt. Fuji – Japan’s highest mountain (3 776 metres) – is a volcano that has been dormant since its last eruption in 1707. It is located near the Pacific coast and straddles the prefectures of Yamanashi and Shizuoka about 100 kilometres west of Tokyo. The image data was acquired as part of the initial functional verification test since the satellite’s launch. The PRISM is an optical sensor, which has three independent optical systems for acquiring terrain and altitude data simultaneously, allowing for three-dimensional images with a high accuracy and frequency. The other two instruments onboard ALOS are the Phased Array type L-band Synthetic Aperture Radar (PALSAR), a microwave radar instrument that can acquire observations through any weather conditions, and the Advanced Visible and Near Infrared Radiometer type-2 (AVNIR-2), designed to chart land cover and vegetation in visible and near-infrared spectral bands.