New satellite imagery gives unique view of Leicestershire in all its glory

Posted by ap507 at Jan 23, 2017 11:19 AM |
Earth Observation scientists at University of Leicester offer a rare glimpse of city and county from orbit

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 23 January 2017

  • Image shows large-scale features of Leicester including Leicester City Football Club and Leicester Tigers stadia, University of Leicester and Bradgate Park
  • Photo produced to test new software to make use of data from Sentinel-2 satellite
  • Sentinel-2 provides useful data including monitoring land cover change and producing carbon mass estimations

The high resolution image of Leicestershire and its features using a state-of-the-art satellite is available here (Copernicus Sentinel Data 2016):

A rarely seen perspective of the county of Leicestershire has been captured in a new high resolution photograph released by University of Leicester scientists using a state-of-the-art satellite for the first time.

While most will have spent Boxing Day recovering from a day of turkey dinners, mammoth present-unwrapping sessions and TV specials, Earth Observation scientists at the University took advantage of the minimal cloud cover to capture this shot of the county in all its glory from 786 km overhead.

The image was taken by the multi-spectral imager on the Sentinel-2a satellite. The Sentinel-2 data provide images at up to 10m resolution, so it is possible to pick out large-scale features of Leicester in the image, such as the Leicester City Football Club and Leicester Tigers stadia, the M1 motorway, Bradgate Park and the white roofs of industrial units.

The instrument itself has 13 bands and the composite was made with the 3 visible channels, red, green and blue, to make the image. The time was chosen as a compromise to minimize cloud cover (the instrument cannot see through clouds) and ensure enough sun illumination to get an image. The image is taken “as is” so is what the satellite sees.

The image was produced by Dr David Moore from the National Centre for Earth Observation (NCEO), based in the Leicester Institute for Space and Earth Observation, as a test of new software that has been developed to make use of the data from Sentinel-2.

Dr Moore said: “We have a system in the Earth Observation Science Group that collects data in almost near-real time and I connect with other users of the system on dedicated forums to discuss and share software and new data developments.

“My own area of research mainly involves studying atmospheric composition using satellite instruments such as the Infrared Atmospheric Sounding Radiometer (IASI) and I’m particularly interested in studying gases emitted from forest fires and the effects on atmospheric chemistry. Imagery produced by Sentinel-2 can be used to identify regions which show signs of burning and also the extent of the burning. Coupling this information with land type classification maps and atmospheric composition measurements from IASI, we can deduce the type of vegetation which has burned and critically test emission inventories used in Earth system modelling.

“The NCEO is also interested in expanding its work to look at what satellite data can provide in terms of flood mapping (at times a major issue for the UK) and this is something that Sentinel-2 can help with.

“On this image, the football and rugby stadia really stand out alongside the white roofs of industrial areas and greener areas such as Victoria Park and the racecourse. Cropston reservoir and Bradgate Park are visible in the top-left corner, and Croft quarry in the bottom left corner. Leicester airport is on the right-hand side with the triangles of the runway.”

The Sentinel-2 satellites (2a and 2b) will operate simultaneously. The first was launched in June 2015, the second is planned for March 2017. They are in what are known as sun synchronous orbits at 786 km and cross the equator at 10:30am local time.

The Sentinel-2 data provide a number of benefits. Monitoring land cover change (i.e changes to forests, burnt area) are the main uses, but there are also agricultural applications to the data such as crop monitoring and the data can be used to produce carbon mass estimations.

Dr Moore added: “One of the drawbacks of such high-resolution data is that the instrument only achieves global coverage in 10 days (reduced to 5 days when both instruments are operational). That means there are gaps in the data coverage over particular areas, and there is some luck involved that the satellite is actually passing over when an event happens and that the area is free from cloud. That is why using a constellation of such instruments is advantageous. The good news is that the NASA Landsat satellites provide similar data and so these data can be combined with Sentinel-2 to ‘fill the gaps’ to a large extent.”

The European Commission’s Copernicus programme will operate the largest Earth observation programme in the world, working with the European Space Agency. It currently has four satellites in orbit -Sentinel-1a and -1b, Sentinel-2a and Sentinel-3a - with three more in 2017, with Sentinel-2B coming on the 7th of March.


Notes to editors:

For more information contact Dr David Moore on (Twitter: @David_P_Moore). Software for plotting the image was provided by David Taylor (Edinburgh) - The image contains modified Copernicus Sentinel-2A data.

About the National Centre for Earth Observation

The National Centre for Earth Observation (NCEO) is a distributed centre with over 80 scientists from UK institutions, led by Professor John Remedios at the University of Leicester. It provides NERC with national capability in Earth observation science and incorporates world-class capabilities in interpretive Earth observation to meet the needs of society through long-term core science and translation of knowledge and environmental data for government and business.

NCEO has world-class capabilities in processing and analysing the vast quantities of data generated by satellites, aircraft and ground-based instruments to monitor and understand global and regional environmental change.

For more information contact

About the Leicester Institute for Space and Earth Observation

This new Institute brings together all the research work within the University associated with Space (including astronomy and planetary science) and Earth Observation, which is spread across a number of Departments within the College of Science and Engineering: Physics and Astronomy, Chemistry, Computer Science, Geography, Geology, Engineering and Mathematics.

The focus will be on Space/EO missions and instruments, Space & EO data and innovation. Expected outcomes will bring science leadership (mission scientists), alongside Engineering capability, and develop expertise on data analysis, data exploitation and leading technology that can be applied both within Space Research and outside in other areas e.g. medical devices and diagnosis (already underway).

Space was identified by the last Government as one of the eight great technologies and is seen as cross-cutting enabler of growth. The Innovation and Growth Strategy (IGS) study in 2010 identified Space as a growth market with the target of £40 billion by 2030, 10% of world market. This growth needs to be underwritten by research. Having an integrated Space and Earth Observation Institute is timely as government actions continue to implement the IGS.

The University of Leicester has a long and distinguished record of discovery in space science. Every year since 1967 has seen a Leicester-built instrument operating in space. We hold, and have held, vital roles in many space missions for space agencies including NASA, European Space Agency, UK Space Agency, ISRO (India) and JAXA (Japan), covering astronomical, planetary and Earth observation science missions. These include NASA/ESA’s James Webb Space Telescope, ESA’s Bepi-Colombo mission, and ESA’s and EUMETSAT’s Meteosat Second Generation missions.

Share this page: