Retired Satellites: A Chance to Shed Light

A view of a city at night

ESSIC/CISESS Assistant Research Scientist Zhuosen Wang is a co-author on a letter in Science titled “Retired Satellites: A Chance to Shed Light” alongside researchers from the Universities Space Research Association, German Research Centre for Geosciences, Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere, Earth Observation Center, and Northern Arizona University.


In the letter, the writers make a case for reprogramming retired satellites to provide data to fill knowledge gaps. In particular, earth and social scientists have long wanted access to earlier nighttime observations. The Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) onboard the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (NPP) and NOAA-20 satellites, is the only openly accessible instrument that currently measures lights from Earth’s surface at night globally. This has enabled scientists to track urbanization, estimate population and GDP, and monitor the impacts of disasters and conflicts. However, measurements are acquired at 1:30 am local time, thus missing a wealth of information that could be gathered from measurements collected at an earlier local time. Reprogrammed retired satellites could provide crucial data in gaps such as this while advancing the science of human activities. 


Wang is the chief architect of the Collection V006 MODIS BRDF/Albedo/NBAR algorithm and science PI of the NASA Black Marble nighttime light product. Wang co-leads the CEOS Land Product Validation (LPV) Subgroup Surface Radiation/Albedo Product Validation focus area. Wang’s areas of interest include monitoring energy services in human settlements using Suomi-NPP VIIRS Day/Night Band, modeling and evaluation of land surface anisotropic characteristics and albedo, and estimating canopy structure using optical remote sensing and Lidar.


To access the article, click here: “Retired Satellites: A Chance to Shed Light”.