Europe’s Sentinel-3A Returns Gorgeous “First Light” Earth Images
Captured by the EU’s Copernicus Sentinel-3A satellite on Feb. 29, 2016, this beautiful composition of blacks, purples, and blues shows the twilight transition across the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard, located north of the Arctic Circle between Norway and the North Pole. The snow-covered and fjord-cut large island of Spitsbergen can be seen at the right edge, while sea ice and clouds follow their own swirling currents on and above the Greenland sea.
This is the first image acquired by the spacecraft, which was launched aboard a converted-ICBM Rockot vehicle on Feb. 16 from Russia’s Plesetsk Cosmodrome. The first of two planned Sentinel-3 satellites, 3A is currently in a high-inclination orbit at an altitude of 505 miles (814 km).
“This first image already reveals the true versatility of Sentinel-3A,” said Volker Liebig, ESA’s Director of Earth Observation Programs. “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.”
Offering “new eyes on Earth” the Sentinel program will allow ocean ecosystems to be monitored and will also support vegetation, crop conditions and inland water monitoring as well as provide estimates of atmospheric aerosol and clouds—which will provide benefits to society through more informed decision-making.
Learn more about the ambitious Earth-monitoring Copernicus program below: