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Satellites documented COVID-19’s impact from space

NASA, ESA, and JAXA took snapshots of COVID-19’s effects on economic activity and pollution

NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) are keeping track of how COVID-19 has changed the economy and environment. The three space agencies brought together satellite observations to create a new dashboard that was unveiled today.

The COVID-19 Earth Observation Dashboard lets users explore how the ongoing pandemic has affected airport and shipping traffic, city night lights, and agricultural production in locations across the world. It also includes data on greenhouse gases, air quality, and water quality.

“The pandemic was not only leaving a staggering toll of human suffering. It was having a global impact that we could document from space,” Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, said in a video released with the dashboard. “Our three space agencies realized that if we could combine forces, we could bring a more powerful set of analytical tools to bear on this fast-moving crisis.”

AXA’s satellite ALOS-2 and ESA’s satellite Sentinel-1 observed the density of newly made cars parked at a factory near the Beijing Capital International Airport. Charts on the dashboard show how the density of brand-new cars parked there plummeted between December 2019 and February 2020 following the emergence of the new coronavirus in China. Satellite imagery shows the number of cars being produced rising again in April.

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