Technology on International Space Station Will Map Out Earth's Coastlines

island view from space photo

Photo via Ethan Hein, CC BY 2.0

When it comes to mapping out Earth's coastlines and getting a detailed record of them globally, what better spot to set up shop than 225 miles overhead? The Hyperspectral Imager for the Coastal Ocean (HICO) - new technology that has just reached the International Space Station - is expected to give scientists their first detailed look at the planet's coasts, helping us to monitor and measure environmental characteristics. But who will use the information is a bit of a mystery...So far what is known is that the information will likely be useful to the Navy, but according to Discovery News, "how much data will be released and to whom has not yet been determined."

We would hope that the information would be made available to scientists and groups studying the impacts of global climate change, pollution's effect on coastal regions and other vital information.

What is known, is how much more advanced this technology is than what has been used for tracking coastlines thus far.

"If you imagine that you're looking down at a coastal scene, it has yellow matter dissolved in. The yellow color comes off leaves in the fall. It's got chlorophyll, which of course is green. It's got a bottom, which may be sand or vegetation. There are a number of color mechanisms that you're trying to sort out in the scene," [lead researcher Mike ] Corson told Discovery News. HICO can break down images into 128 colors, ranging from the near ultraviolet to the near infrared. Corson says it's taken two decades of work to create a device that is sensitive and fast enough to efficiently do the job in space.

More details about the new technology is at Discovery News. We're hoping the tool will be able to add vital data to environmental research on our coasts and oceans.

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