You already know satellites are watching us. But soon, thanks to the European Space Agency’s Sentinel program, they’re going to watch us much more effectively. The Sentinel-1a, which will monitor global climate, launched last week—but it’s the Copernicus Sentinel-2, scheduled for launch in 2015, that’s likely to draw our attention (and vice versa):
The Copernicus satellite will be able to scan the Earth with three times the spatial resolution of NASA’s Landsat-8 (pictured above), which means that we’re going to peer more closely at the planet—every blessed meter of it—than we ever have before. And with the SPOT and Landsat programs still alive and well (and constantly expanding in their own right), we stand to learn even more about our planet in the years ahead.
The military, habitat conservation, and weather and climate monitoring applications of these satellites have already been widely discussed, but they may also help resolve some scientific questions. As we are able to see increasingly isolated parts of the world more clearly, and less invasively, it’s likely that undiscovered species—or, at least, large undiscovered species—will soon show up in our field of vision. And while satellite archaeology is already a field that exists, higher-resolution imagery means we’ll be able to find more buried structures and more unusual natural formations. We can’t predict what all these new windows on the world may show us, and that possibility is tremendously exciting.