NASA’s new CubeSat Imaging Radar for Earth Sciences, or CIRES, could potentially save millions of lives in the future by helping experts pinpoint where danger may be. The series of small satellites will examine impacts from volcanic activity, earthquakes and changes in land surfaces, from space and could majorly influence policymakers.
The data made available will help experts during times of crisis by looking at where disaster relief is best designated.
Lauren Wye, the principal investigator who led and recently concluded the instrument’s development at SRI International in Menlo Park, California, said: “The CubeSat Imaging Radar for Earth Sciences, or CIRES, can help decision-makers and emergency managers obtain observations sooner after a hazardous event so that they are better prepared to deal with disaster relief
Analysis could also help locate where and when a volcano might erupt.
Before a volcanic eruption, the ground tends to bulge slightly as magma builds beneath the surface.
Acute observations by CIRES could detect these changes in the ground formation and signal that an eruption is on its way.
Kyle Anderson, a geophysicist at the U.S. Geological Survey, said: “Volcanoes will often inflate with magma before they erupt.
“Although it’s difficult to predict how big or how long the eruption will be, we can say, this volcano started inflating and there’s a higher probability of it erupting.”
CIRES is equipped with an S-band Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR) which allows it to detect changes in ground formation through even the thickest vegetation – a tool which could be extremely useful.
Mr Anderson said: “InSAR has been particularly useful for better understanding volcanoes in remote areas.”
Patrick Rennich, the CIRES signal processing and experiment design lead, added: “InSAR allows you to get wide areas of coverage and see how one part of the volcano’s caldera is changing relative to another part.
“CIRES should be able to cover the entire caldera.”
NASA said in a statement: “The S-band radar is able to penetrate through vegetation and reach the ground.
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“CIRES takes two radar images of a specific area from approximately the same position in space at two different times and then processes the two images to determine the difference between them.
“The S-band radar is able to penetrate through vegetation and reach the ground.
“CIRES takes two radar images of a specific area from approximately the same position in space at two different times and then processes the two images to determine the difference between them.”
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