New university antenna to provide better images of Alaska

Posted: Friday, August 10, 2001

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- A new antenna will soon be installed on the roof of the International Arctic Research Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Preparations are being made to install the antenna Saturday. It will be used by researchers, state agencies, commercial fishermen and others, who want a better look at Alaska.

The antenna will provide scientists with detailed images of the Earth, such as the location of hotspots in wildfires, the extent of spruce bark beetle damage and the amount of phytoplankton in Alaska's oceans.

UAF Geophysical Institute Professor Buck Sharpton, the project's chief scientists, said the university's receiving station has an advantage over other sites. At least nine times a day, polar-orbiting satellites pass over Fairbanks and other high-latitude sites. That compares to half as many times each day in Seattle or any other city in the northern part of the Lower 48.

The antenna will gather data from a device called the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer. More satellite coverage allows the device to produce frequent images of large portions of Alaska.

''This is the beginning of a service that can benefit every Alaska village and town,'' said Roger Smith, director of the Geophysical Institute.

The device detects the energy emitted and reflected by everything on earth, right down to the difference between healthy trees and those affected by spruce bark beetles.

''The satellite can track stands of stressed trees versus healthy trees versus dead trees, and it can track that front as it goes along,'' Sharpton said.

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