A British-made satellite called the World Thermometer sent back its first images from space today.
HotSat-1 captures infrared images to show how much heat is given off by buildings, parking lots, airports, oil refineries and more.
The new images show the extent of heat emissions in several locations, including Las Vegas, Albuquerque in New Mexico and Canada’s Northwest Territories, which were hit by catastrophic wildfires this year.
HotSat-1 is operated by London-based company SatVu, whose goal is to “ensure that every structure on the planet is energy efficient.”
The findings could suggest that giant conglomerates are releasing more heat than they should, fueling global warming.
From oil refineries in Oklahoma to wildfires in Canada, the new technology tracks thermal emissions around the world – and can help big companies meet their emissions promises
What is HotSat-1?
HotSat-1 is a satellite launched in June 2023 by SpaceX for the London company SatVu.
The satellite provides an infrared mapping of the Earth to show where certain locations emit high levels of sound
Images returned by SatVu show high heat emissions in red/orange and low heat emissions in blue.
HotSat-1 was launched from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California back in June with support from Elon Musk’s SpaceX.
SatVu now plans to launch additional satellites to form a constellation that will mean more data and faster access to new images for personnel on the ground.
Anthony Baker, founder and CEO of SatVu, said there is a “big difference” between these satellite images and thermal images from the ground.
“We may be used to weather images taken via satellite and there are mapping applications on our phones that can show images of the day,” he told BBC Radio 4.
“What we have brought to market, and what the first images show today, is a thermal imaging camera that can capture the thermal emissions of every building on the planet.”
“This allows us to determine where in the world we are wasting energy.”
HotSat-1 examines public buildings, commercial buildings or industrial sites that “potentially waste energy that could be recycled and used for communities,” Mr. Baker added.
Known as the “Pipeline Hub of the World,” Cushing, Oklahoma has 39 storage tanks and pipelines capable of transporting up to 1.5 million barrels of crude oil per day. The visible circular shapes are the oil storage tanks
The image shows the thermal insulating effect of large parking lots in Las Vegas, Nevada, arranged along city streets
This image shows wildfires around 124 miles (200 km) southwest of Yellowknife in Canada’s Northwest Territories in July of this year. The country is experiencing its worst fire season since records began
Lost heat is not only expensive – adding millions to the heating costs of homes with poor insulation – but it is also a cause of global warming.
“We have 28 million homes in the UK, most of which are quite poorly insulated,” Professor Emily Shuckburgh of the University of Cambridge told the BBC.
“Being able to use this kind of information to identify these buildings, prioritize them for better insulation and then assess their quality is really, really important.”
HotSat-1 was designed and manufactured in the UK by SatVu in collaboration with Surrey Satellite Technologies (SSTL), based in Guildford.
In the Canadian image from July, an active forest fire is clearly shown in orange, while the smoky aftermath is shown in a light blue hue.
In the future, HotSat-1 will enable emergency responders and organizations to predict the speed of progression and possible impacts of wildfires.
Unlike previous images typically captured by current satellites, SatVu’s images use high-resolution thermal infrared wavelengths.
This allows for a much higher resolution view of the area that is not obscured by smoke, which is impenetrable at visible wavelengths.
Another shot shows the main line of the Belt Railway of Chicago (BRC), which runs locomotives with polluting diesel generators.
This image shows the Belt Railway of Chicago (BRC) main line and the eastern end of its clearing year. North American locomotives typically have diesel generators and the heat signatures of individual locomotives are clearly visible on the thermal images
Airport in Albuquerque, New Mexico, with aircraft on the right of the picture. A golf course at the bottom of the picture is comparatively cooler
Darwin Australia: The orange area shows sea, rivers and estuaries and the darker part at the top is the marina. Water retains its heat very well, which is why it is displayed as very warm (orange)
SatVu presented its technology to the Prince of Wales at the Sustainable Ventures event in London earlier this week.
The company describes its mission as collecting “highest-resolution thermal data from space for a safer and more sustainable Earth.”
“High-resolution thermal imaging and insights captured from space are the only way to collect data that enables climate action and education,” the company says on its website.
“We are committed to ensuring that every structure on the planet is energy efficient and supporting the reduction of companies’ carbon footprints.”
“We will monitor the Earth in near real time using infrared technology and will be able to assess and gain insights into economic activity.”
“This allows companies to make decisions to become more environmentally friendly.”
Europe’s winter heat wave seen from space
New satellite images show the effects of Europe’s “winter heat wave” in the middle of the continent’s winter ski season.
An image released by the European Union’s Copernicus program shows a significant lack of snow around the Swiss town of Altdorf, which is close to ski resorts.
In Altdorf the temperature reached 66.5°F (19.2°C) on the first day of the year and did not fall below 60.9°F (16.1°C) at night, breaking a previous record set in 1864 was broken.
TikTok videos also show the disappointing snow cover at various ski resorts in the Alps, with melting ice exposing bare areas of land.