Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Great Wall of China seen from space

11.05.2004


ESA’s Proba satellite here shows a winding segment of the 7240-km long Great Wall of China situated just northeast of Beijing. The Great Wall’s relative visibility or otherwise from orbit has inspired much recent debate.


An image acquired by Proba’s High Resolution Camera on 25 March 2004 shows a short stretch of the 7240-km-long Great Wall of China snaking along hilltops northeast of Beijing, running from the top middle of the image down to bottom right. The white watercourse that meanders from the middle of the left side down to the bottom of the image is the initial part of the 1500-km-long Da Yunhe or Grand Canal, a linked series of natural and man-made waterways that represents an engineering achievement on a par with the Great Wall.

Credits: ESA



The 21 hours spent in space last October by Yang Liwei - China’s first ever space traveller - were a proud achievement for his nation. The only disappointment came as Liwei informed his countrymen he had not spotted their single greatest national symbol from orbit.

"The Earth looked very beautiful from space, but I did not see our Great Wall," Liwei told reporters after his return.


China has cherished for decades the idea that the Wall was just about the only manmade object visible to astronauts from space, and the news disappointed many. A suggestion was made that the Wall be lit up at night so it can definitely be seen in future, while others called for school textbooks to be revised to take account of Liwei’s finding.

However such revisions may be unnecessary, according to American astronaut Eugene Cernan, speaking during a visit to Singapore: "In Earth’s orbit at a height of 160 to 320 kilometres, the Great Wall of China is indeed visible to the naked eye."

Liwei may well have been unlucky with the weather and local atmospheric or light conditions – with sufficiently low-angled sunlight the Wall’s shadow if not the Wall itself could indeed be visible from orbit.

What is for sure is that what the human eye may not be able to see, satellites certainly can. Proba’s High Resolution Camera (HRC) acquired this image of the Wall from 600 km away in space. The HRC is a black and white camera that incorporates a miniature Cassegrain telescope, giving it far superior spatial resolution to the human eye.

So while the HRC resolves mad-made objects down to five square metres, astronauts in low Earth orbit looking with the naked eye can only just make out such large-scale artificial features as field boundaries between different types of crops or the grid shape formed by city streets. They require binoculars or a zoom lens to make out individual roads or large buildings.

About Proba

Proba (Project for On Board Autonomy) is an ESA micro-satellite built by an industrial consortium led by the Belgian company Verhaert, launched in October 2001 and operated from ESA’s Redu Ground Station (Belgium).

Orbiting 600 km above the Earth’s surface, Proba was designed to be a one-year technology demonstration mission of the Agency but has since had its lifetime extended as an Earth Observation mission. It now routinely provides scientists with detailed environmental images thanks to CHRIS - a Compact High Resolution Imaging Spectrometer developed by UK-based Sira Electro-Optics Ltd - one of the main payloads on the 100 kg spacecraft.

Also aboard is the HRC, a small-scale monochromatic camera made up of a miniature Cassegrain telescope and a 1024 x 1024 pixel Charge-Coupled Device (CCD), as used in ordinary digital cameras, taking 25-km square images to a resolution of five metres. Proba boasts an ’intelligent’ payload and has the ability to observe the same spot on Earth from a number of different angles and different combinations of optical and infra-red spectral bands. A follow-on mission, Proba-2, is due to be deployed by ESA around 2005.

Frédéric Le Gall | ESA

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Stagnation in the South Pacific Explains Natural CO2 Fluctuations
23.02.2018 | Carl von Ossietzky-Universität Oldenburg

nachricht First evidence of surprising ocean warming around Galápagos corals
22.02.2018 | University of Arizona

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Attoseconds break into atomic interior

A newly developed laser technology has enabled physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (jointly run by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics) to generate attosecond bursts of high-energy photons of unprecedented intensity. This has made it possible to observe the interaction of multiple photons in a single such pulse with electrons in the inner orbital shell of an atom.

In order to observe the ultrafast electron motion in the inner shells of atoms with short light pulses, the pulses must not only be ultrashort, but very...

Im Focus: Good vibrations feel the force

A group of researchers led by Andrea Cavalleri at the Max Planck Institute for Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) in Hamburg has demonstrated a new method enabling precise measurements of the interatomic forces that hold crystalline solids together. The paper Probing the Interatomic Potential of Solids by Strong-Field Nonlinear Phononics, published online in Nature, explains how a terahertz-frequency laser pulse can drive very large deformations of the crystal.

By measuring the highly unusual atomic trajectories under extreme electromagnetic transients, the MPSD group could reconstruct how rigid the atomic bonds are...

Im Focus: Developing reliable quantum computers

International research team makes important step on the path to solving certification problems

Quantum computers may one day solve algorithmic problems which even the biggest supercomputers today can’t manage. But how do you test a quantum computer to...

Im Focus: In best circles: First integrated circuit from self-assembled polymer

For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.

In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...

Im Focus: Demonstration of a single molecule piezoelectric effect

Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale

Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

2nd International Conference on High Temperature Shape Memory Alloys (HTSMAs)

15.02.2018 | Event News

Aachen DC Grid Summit 2018

13.02.2018 | Event News

How Global Climate Policy Can Learn from the Energy Transition

12.02.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Basque researchers turn light upside down

23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Finnish research group discovers a new immune system regulator

23.02.2018 | Health and Medicine

Attoseconds break into atomic interior

23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>