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New EU satellite delivers stunning images from space

Just two weeks after launch, the latest Sentinel satellite has offered a taster of what it will provide for the EU’s Copernicus programme – including this spectacular image of the Strait of Gibraltar.

Sentinel-3A’s very first image, captured at 14:09 GMT on 29 February, shows the transition from day to night over Svalbard, Norway.

As well as showing the snow-covered archipelago, the image also details Arctic sea ice and some cloud features.

Another image delivered on the same day shows California, USA. It also captures Los Angeles, which coincidentally is where the International Ocean Colour Coordinating Group Meeting is taking place.

The following day, one of the images shows Spain, Portugal, the Strait of Gibraltar and North Africa.

Iberian_Peninsula web

Featuring Gibraltar, southern Spain, Portugal and North Africa, this is one of the first images from the Sentinel-3A satellite. The image was taken by the satellite’s Ocean and Land Colour Instrument on 1 March 2016 and clearly shows the Strait of Gibraltar between the Atlantic and Mediterranean. Swirls of sediment and algae in the seawater can be seen along the southwest coast of Spain and along the coast of Morocco. Photo: ESA/Copernicus data (2016)

These images were captured by its ocean and land colour instrument, OLCI. With heritage from Envisat, this new instrument has 21 spectral bands, a resolution of 300 m and a swath width of 1270 km.

Offering new eyes on Earth, this improved instrument will allow ocean ecosystems to be monitored. It will also support vegetation, crop conditions and inland water monitoring as well as provide estimates of atmospheric aerosol and clouds – all of which bring significant benefits to society through more informed decision-making.

Volker Liebig, ESA’s Director of Earth Observation Programmes, said, “This first image already reveals the true versatility of Sentinel-3A.”

“The mission will be at the heart of a wide range of applications, from measuring marine biological activity to providing information about the health of vegetation.”

Photo: ESA/Copernicus data (2016)