A mere two weeks after the Sentinel-3B satellite joined its twin in orbit, the European Space Agency (ESA) received the first set of three color images taken by the spacecraft’s powerful camera.
The photos reveal spectacular views of our planet as seen from outer space and were captured by the satellite’s ocean and land color instrument. Together with the Sentinel-3A satellite, launched in February 2016, Sentinel-3B will be systematically monitoring Earth’s oceans, land, ice, and atmosphere as part of the Copernicus Earth observation program.
The image above was the very first in the inaugural batch of photos sent back by the Copernicus Sentinel-3B satellite and showcases the sunset over the Weddell Sea off the coast of Antarctica.
This first snapshot of Earth was taken on May 7 at 10:33 a.m. GMT (12:33 a.m. CEST) and was followed almost three hours later by a breathtaking photo of Greenland.
The second image, captured by the Sentinel-3B satellite at 13:20 p.m. GMT (15:20 p.m. CEST), reveals swirls of sea ice being churned into eddies by the wind and by ocean currents.
Last but not least, the satellite’s camera took a third snapshot yesterday morning, this time managing to capture a rare cloud-free view of northern Europe. The photo was taken at 09:33 a.m. GMT (11:33 a.m. CEST) and displays a beautiful contrast between the snow-covered Norwegian landscape, the green features of Denmark and Sweden, and a pale-blue plume of phytoplankton in the North Sea.
According to Josef Aschbacher, ESA’s Director of Earth Observation Programmes, this first batch of photos prove that the Sentinel-3B satellite is fully operational and ready “to play its role in providing a stream of high-quality environmental data to improve lives, boost the economy and protect our world.”
ESA plans to use the satellite’s ocean and land color instrument to keep a watchful eye on marine pollution as well as monitor aquatic biological productivity and the health of land vegetation. The cutting-edge instrument features 21 distinct bands and has a 300-meter (or 984-foot) resolution, with a swath width of 1,270 km (or nearly 790 miles).
The objective of the Sentinel-3 mission is to keep tabs on Earth’s changing climate by mapping sea level changes and measuring the “temperature, color and height of the sea surface,” the ESA points out.
“As well as measuring the oceans, the mission also delivers unique and timely information about changing land cover, vegetation, urban heat islands and for tracking wildfires,” the European agency said in a statement prior to Sentinel-3B’s launch.
The satellite is currently orbiting our planet at a distance of 506 miles (815 kilometers), where it settled after its April 25 launch from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in Russia.
“We are extremely pleased to see these first images, which show that the satellite is in good health,” said Bruno Berruti, who manages the Sentinel-3 project for ESA.
During the next five months, the agency will be calibrating the instruments aboard the Sentinel-3B satellite, which is the seventh spacecraft launched by the ESA for the Copernicus program.