How Satellites Collect Data

Adapted from the article on

Solar radiation passes through the atmosphere and hits a target surface such as a forest, water, or built up area. Different materials reflect, emit, and absorb at different wavelengths.

  • Incident solar radiation: radiation emitted from the sun
  • Atmosphere: Some of that radiation interacts with the atmosphere. When a satellite detects this radiation, it can evaluate what might have caused interference in the atmosphere.
  • Forests and trees: Vegetation reflects certain wavelengths of solar radiation back to a satellite’s sensors. Changes in the wavelengths reflected can lead to information on any land cover changes that might be occurring.
  • Water: Water reflects radiation mostly in the blue-green spectrum. Changes in these reflected wavelengths can provide data on change in water levels, whether or not there is algal growth on the water, and more.
  • Grass and crops: Grass, crops and bare soil reflect different types of radiation to a satellite’s sensors.
  • Pavement and buildings: Pavement and buildings both reflect different wavelengths of light than natural materials. This allows a satellite to collect data on the amount of development in an area.
  • Reflected solar radiation: The satellite sensors detect reflected radiation from the sun.

Posted on July 13, 2021 Tags: