Astrosat was invited to attend the Orkney Science Festival at the Orkney Theatre to give a Saturday morning talk, “The Distant Earth Below”, introducing data collected by satellites, also known as “space data”, and how we use it to address global problems.
Beyond the ten hours delay due to aircraft mechanical issues I arrived late on Friday afternoon, landing to sunlit and beautiful looking Orkney Islands. (Note to self – next time book an extra few days and take my motorcycle for a better tour of the islands.) The next morning was equally sunny – I believe these islanders tell us all the weather is bad so we don’t come and spoil their islands! I walked to the impressive Orkney Theatre where I was introduced to the stage by someone I hope will soon be an ESA Astronaut, our event anchor Dr Jackie Bell (@sciencesummedup).
To start the session I gave an introduction to my company, Astrosat, our mission and what we call our office, the Copernicus Kirk (aka the James T). I then gave an overview of what Astrosat is currently doing with space data, talking about our work in illegal logging in Guatemala, storm tracking in Vietnam, and the work on tackling fuel poverty in Great Britain. We took a closer look at our fuel poverty prediction for Orkney Islands, looking at the different levels of fuel poverty in the various communities of Kirkwall, and going through each island which make up the Orkneys. One attendee noted that we should present our work to Orkney Islands Council (this has been done at the time of writing this blog).
During the talk I introduced the attendees to global fire detection using VIIRS. To illustrate the point, I showed one week of fires starting globally, which astounded, alarmed and highlighted this global climate change issue in a very thought provoking and visual way.
In the example we could very clearly see the Amazon forest alight, and I was also able to show attendees of all ages that fires were starting in regions of the Arctic (regions where fires should not be starting), regions in countries of the southern hemisphere like Australia which should be in “winter” and which should not be expecting fires. One thing which is also shown using VIIRS, and something I presented to the attendees, is fires starting over water, in the North Sea! After few seconds of puzzled looks it was clear to all that these fires were in reality flaring from offshore platforms. Immediately the attendees asked me if there was a way to correlate air pollution with flaring events. The answer was quite straight forward – yes we can monitor air pollution from space.
Several attendees, especially children, showed a lot of interest and asked questions about the source of the data we use and what kind of processing we perform to make the data more “useful” to all. I was amazed, as a person only new to the space scene, to see how much interest the next generation have for space and all the applications it can have to solving Earth problems. As we say at Astrosat – “Every Earth problem has a space solution.” All in all it was a great trip for a great event, and I’m sure Astrosat will be back again in due course to give an update on our work and share the bright future.