A European Space Agency's probe monitors vegetation growth around the world, but the mini-satellite also picked up data from something else, something man-made, and turned it into a beautiful map.
The map shows the Proba-V detecting the signals of 15,000 aircraft at 25 million positions.
Image credit: ESA/DLR/SES
"We’ve shown that detection of aircraft can work from space with no showstoppers, despite the fact that these signals were never designed to be picked up from so far away," Toni Delovski, who overseas the experiment with the DLR German Aerospace Center, said in a statement. "In fact, the signals are beamed sideways from their host aircraft rather than omidirectionally, making them harder to detect from orbit."
The Proba-V, which was launched two years ago, is less than a cubic meter in size and tracks plant growth across the globe every two days.
The project to collect aircraft signals, Delvoski said, is to see where there is less dense air traffic in the world. Where there is less traffic, planes can fly at a closer minimum separation distance. The researchers think that by tracking Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast signals from planes, even aircraft in high density areas could fly closer together, allowing for even more air traffic while maintaining safety.
"We are still working to improve the system, with ongoing software upgrades, and investigating anomalies," Delovski said. "Right now, some makes of aircraft are more easily detected than others, which typically comes down to the age and make of their ADS-B systems."
(H/T: Daily Mail)