Geospatial Round-up – April/May 2018

May 4th, 2018, Published in Articles: PositionIT

Galaxy mapped in 3D

ESA’s Gaia mission has produced a very detailed star catalogue, including high-precision measurements of nearly 1,7-billion stars, revealing previously unseen details of our Galaxy. The new data includes positions, distance indicators and motions of more than one billion stars, along with high-precision measurements of asteroids within our solar system and stars beyond the Milky Way Galaxy. For a subset of stars within a few thousand light-years of the sun, Gaia has measured the velocity in all three dimensions, revealing patterns in the motions of stars that are orbiting the Galaxy at similar speeds. A multitude of discoveries are on the horizon after this much awaited release, which is based on 22 months of charting the sky.

Turner prize nominee employs data

Among this year’s Turner Prize finalists is a research organisation, Forensic Architecture, which uses architectural rendering software to uncover human rights abuses. The organisation has pioneered methods for spatial investigations of state and corporate violations worldwide. Their investigations have provided decisive evidence in a number of legal cases, including in national and international courts in Germany, The Hague, Greece, Israel, Guatemala, as well as in citizen tribunals and human rights processes, leading to military, parliamentary, and UN inquiries. The organisation’s methods respond to the changing media landscape – e.g. digital recording equipment, satellite imaging and data sharing platforms – and propose new modes of open-source, citizen-led evidence gathering and analysis that has already contributed to developments in the fields of human rights, journalism, and visual cultures.

First visuals of the Cape Canyon seabed

A team of Department of Environmental Affairs’ (DEA) researchers returned from a four-week research expedition which covered an area of over 100 x 300 km2. Gathering information on the biodiversity, oceanography and geology, they have returned with the first visuals of the rocky habitats of the Cape Canyon seafloor. Apart from physical sampling approaches, an echo sounder was used to produce a map outlining the topography of the canyon. Underwater features such as canyons potentially play a significant ecological role in the life of some commercial resources (e.g. hake), and their unique structure connects the coastline to the deep-sea environment. Apart from their ecological functions, intensified upwelling events have been noted within submarine canyons and these in turn may power cetacean and seabird feeding grounds.

High-res nationwide air pollution map

MappAir, a high-resolution nationwide map of air pollution, has been updated to include small atmospheric particles that can cause serious health problems. Created by EarthSense, MappAir 2.0 now includes fine particulate matter (PM2.5) as well as nitrogen dioxide levels for the whole of the UK at 100 m resolution. The company used modelling techniques to create the map combining data from satellites, its network of Zephyr air quality monitoring sensors and other published datasets. In addition to satellite and traffic data, the updated map includes the UK Government’s Automatic Urban and Rural Network (AURN) air quality data as well as non-traffic sources such as the National Atmospheric Emissions Inventory (NAEI). MappAir 2.0 also considers the effect of topology and other factors.

Twin spacecraft to measure water

A pair of new spacecraft that will observe Earth’s ever-changing water cycle, ice sheets and crust is in final preparations for launch in May 2018. The Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-On (GRACE-FO) mission will take over where the first GRACE mission left off in 2017. Like its predecessor, it uses the weight of water to measure its movement – even water hidden far below Earth’s surface. The two identical GRACE-FO satellites will function as a single instrument. As they fly over a massive feature (e.g. underground aquifer), the gravitational pull of that feature tugs on the satellites, changing the distance separating them. By tracking changes in their separation distance with incredible accuracy the satellites can map these regional gravity changes.

Evidence of earthquakes affecting Chilean coast

Researchers recently published a detailed paleoseismological history of the Aysén region, including at least six major Holocene earthquakes, one of which is likely related to a known megathrust earthquake. Other earthquakes are related to activity of the Liquiñe‐Ofqui Fault Zone (LOFZ), forming the main source of seismic hazard in the area. From this they can infer a general average recurrence time for LOFZ earthquakes of approximately 2100 years in the vicinity of Aysén Fjord with clustered events during the early and late Holocene. Finally, we argue that cascading events (causal link between volcanic and seismic events) may be a frequent phenomenon along the LOFZ. The research is published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth.

New digital maps for Asia

A new digital map edition for all of Asia has been released by research and analytics firm GfK. It features coverage of 49 countries, ranging from the three BRICS nations Russia, India and China to smaller countries such as Bhutan. In addition to more granular coastlines, the digital maps depict the latest status of administrative and postal regions. Detailed, up-to-date digital maps are a prerequisite for accurate location-based market analyses. The firm’s Asia Edition 2017/2018 includes approximately 750 digital maps. These maps make it possible to geocode, link and analyse company and market data as well as other location data such as risk-related information used in the reinsurance industry. All of the maps are vector-based.