Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Columbus camera captures first views of Earth

One of the experiments housed on the European Columbus laboratory’s external platform is an automated eye in the sky known as the Earth Viewing Camera (EVC). Now, after several weeks of troubleshooting by the EVC team in the Netherlands, the first pictures from the orbiting camera have arrived safely back on Earth.

The initial image, showing a dimly illuminated cloud-covered region was successfully downloaded on 6 March. A second picture – the first to be produced on command from the ground – was taken soon after dawn on 7 March and shows a scattering of white and pink clouds close to the Aleutian Islands in the north Pacific.

“It was really exciting to see the first image arriving from space after the long period of developing the camera and testing it in orbit,” said Massimo Sabbatini, ESA Principal Investigator for the EVC. “This success would not have been possible without the major contribution of Carlo Gavazzi Space and the hard work of the integration and operations teams at the European Space Technology and Research Centre (ESTEC) in the Netherlands.”

“We are just starting to experiment with the various camera parameters to adjust for the vast range of lighting conditions we encounter. That’s why the second picture is slightly blurred,” explains Sabbatini. “The ISS is travelling at about 7 km per second, so we have to adjust the exposure time to compensate for this rapid motion. At that speed the camera moves over hundreds of metres on the ground in a matter of milliseconds.”

The camera is intended to be a valuable resource for public outreach and education. Sabbatini says, "We hope to encourage teachers and students to use the EVC as a tool for studying all aspects of Earth observation from space – imaging, telemetry, telecommunications links and orbit predictions. We are also hoping to receive requests for images of particular regions over which the ISS is passing.”

The story of the EVC began in 2003, when the company Carlo Gavazzi Space of Milan, Italy, approached ESA with a proposal to fly a digital camera as a low cost payload on one of the external platforms on Columbus. ESA and Carlo Gavazzi Space signed an agreement in March 2004 whereby each partner would provide half of the required funding for the development of the camera.

The EVC points continuously at a fixed angle toward the Earth. The camera weighs 7.8 kg and measures 0.4 x 0.28 x 0.16 m. It uses a commercial, off the shelf, sensor provided by Kodak, with a 2k x 2k detector. It is able to capture colour images of the Earth’s surface that cover an area of 200 x 200 km.

The images are received in Europe by the Columbus Control Centre at Oberpfaffenhofen in Germany and then forwarded to the ESA User Support Operation Centre in the Erasmus Centre at ESTEC. In the future, the EVC image acquisition process and exploitation will be coordinated from the EVC User Home Base, also located at the Erasmus Centre.

EVC is part of the European Technology Exposure Facility (EuTEF) installed on the European Columbus laboratory’s external platform during a spacewalk on 15 February 2008 by NASA astronauts Rex Walheim and Stanley Love.

Located on the starboard side of the International Space Station, Columbus sweeps around the Earth once every 90 minutes. Since the Station’s orbital path is inclined at about 52 degrees to the equator, the Earth Viewing Camera has the potential to take pictures of anywhere on the Earth’s surface from England to the southern tip of South America. This includes almost all of the densely populated parts of the world.

Markus Bauer | alfa
Further information:

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Receding glaciers in Bolivia leave communities at risk
20.10.2016 | European Geosciences Union

nachricht UM researchers study vast carbon residue of ocean life
19.10.2016 | University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>