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 NASA examines newly formed Tropical Depression 3W in 3-D
26.04.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

nachricht Early organic carbon got deep burial in mantle
25.04.2017 | Rice University

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Link Discovered between Immune System, Brain Structure and Memory

26.04.2017 | Life Sciences

New survey hints at exotic origin for the Cold Spot

26.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

NASA examines newly formed Tropical Depression 3W in 3-D

26.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>