The Big Picture: Infrared satellite images reveal the true extent of a forest fire

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The Big Picture: Infrared satellite images reveal the true extent of a forest fire

DigitalGlobe's recently launched high-res imaging satellite isn't just in orbit for the sake of creating pretty pictures; it can also uncover things that you might never see at all. As proof, the company has posted before-and-after imagery of a California forest fire that shows off the advantages of WorldView-3's shortwave infrared sensor, which can easily see past clouds and smoke. Suffice it to say that the sensor's effect is dramatic -- areas that would have been completely obscured are suddenly in plain sight, revealing both the perimeter of the blaze and its intensity. The hope is that firefighters will use overhead shots like these to pinpoint areas where they're needed most, saving people and whole regions. It could be a while before emergency teams are pulling up satellite views at a moment's notice, but it won't be surprising if aircraft-based fire recon eventually becomes obsolete.

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