ASTER: Satellite Sensor

Geospatial Technology September 28, 2011 Print Friendly and PDF
A color infrared composite (bands 321) of an ASTER acquisition on April 28, 2007. This subset is centered on an area of forested and clear-cut forest lands. A portion of Sam Rayburn Lake is also visible. These features are located in East Texas north of the city of Jasper. The scale of the image is 1:60,000.

A NASA EOS (Earth Observing System) satellite called Terra (EOS AM-1) carries the ASTER instrument. Terra launched on Dec. 18, 1999, and began direct broadcast in March 2000. Several Japanese companies built the ASTER instrument, which is a pointable sensor composed of three subsystems: the Visible and Near Infrared (VNIR), the Shortwave Infrared (SWIR), and the Thermal Infrared (TIR). ASTER is operational today through a joint cooperative effort between NASA, the Japan Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry, and the Japan Earth Remote Sensing Data Analysis Center.


The ASTER swath width is 60 km.



Band # Pixel Resolution (meters) Reflected Bandwidth Range (microns) Emitted Bandwidth Range (microns) Instrument Subsystem
1 15 0.52 - 0.60   VNIR
2 15 0.63 - 0.69   VNIR
3 (nadir looking) 15 0.76 - 0.86   VNIR
3 (backward looking) 15 0.76 - 0.86   VNIR
4 30 1.600 - 1.700   SWIR
5 30 2.145 – 2.185   SWIR
6 30 2.185 – 2.225   SWIR
7 30 2.235 – 2.285   SWIR
8 30 2.295 – 2.365   SWIR
9 30 2.360 – 2.430   SWIR
10 90   8.125 – 8.475 TIR
11 90   8.475 – 8.825 TIR
12 90   8.925 – 9.275 TIR
13 90   10.25 – 10.95 TIR
14 90   10.95 – 11.65 TIR

Note: There is no visible blue band.

Pixel size
15m Visible and Near Infrared (VNIR)
30m Shortwave Infrared (SWIR)
60m Thermal Infrared (TIR)

The Terra satellite, which carries the ASTER instrument, has a ground track repeat cycle of 16 days. ASTER, however, is a noncontinuous on-demand sensor. Acquisitions must be requested by authorized users and are assigned to one of three ASTER Data Collection Categories. The NASA JPL Obtaining ASTER Data site and subsequent sublinks explain the data acquisition process, including the Acquisition Calendar.

The Terra satellite operates in a sun-synchronous, near-polar orbit at 705 km above the Earth.

Data access
See the ASTER Supplemental Tools site and sublinks for information about ASTER data available through the USGS Global Visualization Viewer (GloVis), the Land Processes Distributed Active Archive Center (LP DAAC) Data Pool, and the USGS TerraLook collection.

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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.