In 2015, the European Space Agency (ESA) launched its own high resolution earth observation satellite system from the Sentinel program, Sentinel-2. Since then, it has provided us with enormous amounts of fantastic data, all for free, accessible to everybody. For us here at EOMAP, this started a new era, giving us access to the best combination of spatial and temporal resolution that we ever had. Consequently, Sentinel-2 is specifically precious to us and we want to celebrate its half-decade birthday with some of our favorite images from all around the globe. See for yourself!
This is the first data Sentinel-2 has ever recorded. Starting in central Sweden, that strip of data runs all the way south across central Europe, eventually ending in the desert of Algeria.
This image itself might not be the most spectacular, but it marks the beginning of a new era of earth observation that now has provided us with half a decade of unprecedented data.
We had the start of the first data strip from Sentinel-2 on June 27th, 2015, here is (almost) its end. In the middle of nowhere in the Algerian desert, two different types of landscape
meet at a sharp edge: Rocky surfaces rapidly change to something that looks like craters on the Moon, but in fact are lines of sand dunes that have been created by the wind. What
would be a more or less boring sight to our human eyes becomes colorful and rich of contrasts in this false-color composite that enhances geological differences, in that case the
difference between bare rock (dark) and sand (light). What an end for the first ever strip of Sentinel-2 data.
This oil spill (the grey-brown structures on the water) in the Persian Gulf near Al Khafji, Saudi-Arabia, was captured at the end of July in 2017. Oil spills like this unfortunately occur on
a regular basis everywhere around the globe where oil is either produced or transported and are a huge thread to the environment.
The wildfires in Australia in December 2019 and January 2020 shook the nation and the world, burning everything in their way and causing incredible losses to human lives and the
environment. This image from January 3rd shows the huge extent of the smoke and is still only a part of the picture, with the almost 300km wide swath of Sentinel-2 not being enough
to capture it all. The amount of smoke was so enormous that the clouds formed from the particles were not white, but grey.
The national park in South Australia, located north of Adelaide, was established in 1970 and features these stunning geological structures. While for the human eye the landscape
appears more or less uniformly brown and red, different geological layers become visible in this false-color composite and enhance their beautiful shape that, in this form, can only
be seen from space.
There is no way featuring highlights of satellite images without showing at least one phytoplacton bloom. They occur on a regular basis in nutrient-rich waters that is hit by enough
sunlight to ignite an explosion of planctonic life in the upper water layers. What looks like a screenshot from the Matrix is in fact an actual true-color image from this extensive bloom
in July 2019 that spanned basically across the whole Baltic Sea, ranging from the northern shores of Germany and Poland all the way up to Sweden and Finland in the north and Estonia
and Russia to the east. Another cool feature here are the ship tracks that are visible as dark lines cutting through the otherwise green waters.
This giant calved from the Larsen-C Ice Shelf at the Antarctic Peninsula in July 2017. Being one of the largest icebergs ever recorded, it reduced the of the whole Larsen-C Ice Shelf by
an incredible amount of 12%. When Sentinel-2 finally got a cloud-free look at it in September 2018, it had already moved to away from its origin and lost some ice around the edges,
but still had a surface area of almost 5,800 square kilometers, which is about the size of Brunei or half the size of Jamaica. Currently, it is located at the Southern Orkney Islands,
between Elephant Island and Coronation Island.
Lake Baikal is the largest freshwater lake in the world (by volume) and also the world's deepest lake (more than 1.6 kilometers). In the southern part, the river Selenga has formed this
beautiful, fan-shaped delta that becomes even more spectacular in this false-color composite, where agricultural areas turn pink, while densely vegetated areas show up in green.
This lake became famous during the last month because it transformed its color from green to pink within just a few days. The reason for that is not completely clear, but experts think
it might be due to an increased salinity or the presence of a certain species of algae. Whatever it might be, it looks amazing, like a red eye staring at the satellite that captured it on
Island-Ception alert! The Philippines are an archipelagic country, meaning that it consists of several islands. The largest one, Luzon, has a volcanic crater, a caldera, that holds a lake,
which has its own island, Volcano Island, that again has a small crater lake, which then again has a tiny island called Vulcan Point. So you have an island in a lake on an island in another
lake on a large maritime island. Sadly, Vulcan Point disappeared during the latest eruption of the Taal Volcano on January 12th this year, leaving Canada as the (seemingly) only country
in the world with at least one of those so-called thrid-order islands, but in this false-color composite that enhances vivid vegetation (red), it is still "alive" (see bottom left zoom).
The island Mauritius is famous as a holiday destination especially due to its crystal clear waters. At its southwestern tip, the view from above offers a special optical illusion. The
sediments of the shallow waters are being moved by currents in a way that it looks like an underwater waterfall. Although this is not a new phenomenon, it was almost impossible to
get good impression from a non-commercial, non-military satellite, simply because the spatial resolution was not good enough. Sentinel-2 with its unprecented resolution of only
10 meters has now given us this oppurtunity and here we are: a stunning optical illusion, created by nature.
The Mariana dam disaster at the village Bento Rodrigues near Belo Horizonte, Brazil, occurred on November 5th 2015. The dam of mining complex failed, spilling millions of cubic
meters of mine tailings into the Rio Doce. Eventually, the contaminated waters reached the Atlantic ocean, forming a rusty-colored fan at the river mouth with a very sharp edge against
the surrounding ocean water. If you look closely, you can see a ship trail, a nice little detail in an otherwise devastating catastrophe.