Questions about Satellite Imagery

No. Most of the free imagery that SkyTruth has access to does not provide high enough resolution to detect individuals or items as small as cars.

What we can see depends on the resolution of a specific satellite and when that satellite is flying over the area we want to look at.(Depending on the satellite, the amount of cloud cover can also affect how much we can see. Radar satellite imagery can penetrate clouds.)

For example, Sentinel-2 satellite imagery, available from the European Space Agency, has 10-60 Meter resolution. If the image has 10 meter resolution, each pixel in the satellite image represents an area on the ground that’s 10 X 10 meters. Sentinel-2 satellites re-visit the same location about every 5 days [CONFIRM WITH SOMEONE OR REMOVE].

You may be wondering about Google Maps Satellite views, which lets you zoom in extremely close in some areas. The images used for Google Maps are a mix of satellite and aerial images. This makes for extremely high-quality imagery, but it can’t be used for monitoring environmental incidents that happened very recently. The images are often composites – several images stitched together – to show a cloud-free view of the ground, and there is no way to know the exact date and time the image was taken.