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This image is a false-color composite of Oetzal, Austria located in the Central Alps centered at 46.8 degrees north latitude, 10.70 degrees east longitude, at the border between Switzerland (top), Italy (left) and Austria (right and bottom). The area shown is 50 kilometers (30 miles) south of Innsbruck, Austria. This image was acquired by the Spaceborne Imaging Radar-C and X-Band Synthetic Aperture Radar (SIR-C/X-SAR) aboard the space shuttle Endeavour on its 14th orbit. Oetztal is a SIR-C/X-SAR hydrology supersite. Approximately one quarter of this image is covered by glaciers, the largest of which, Gepatschferner, is visible as a triangular yellow patch in the center of the scene. The summits of the main peaks reach elevations between 3,500 and 3,768 meters (11,500 and 12,362 feet) above sea level. The tongues of the glaciers are descending from elevated plateaus down into narrow valleys which were formed during the last ice age. This color image was produced in C-band using multi-polarization information (red=CHV, green=CVV,blue=CVV/CHV). The blue areas are lakes (Gepatsch dam at center right; Lake Muta at top right) and glacier ice. The yellow areas are slopes facing the radar and areas of dry snow. Purple corresponds to slopes facing away from the radar. Yellow in the valley bottom corresponds to tree covered areas. There is 30 to 50 centimeters (12 to 20 inches) of dry, fresh snow on the glaciers, and about 10 centimeters (4 inches) in the valley at the city of Vent, Austria (center). At these data were taken, the weather was cold, with snow and thick fog. The entire area would appear white to an optical sensor because it is all covered under a winter snowpack. Researchers are interested in Oetztal because knowing how glaciers shrink and grow over time is an important indication of climatic change.
Spaceborne Imaging Radar-C and X-Synthetic Aperture Radar (SIR-C/X-SAR) is part of NASA's Mission to Planet Earth (MTPE). The radars illuminate Earth with microwaves allowing detailed observations at any time, regardless of weather or sunlight conditions. SIR-C/X-SAR uses three microwave wavelengths: L-band (24 cm), C-band (6 cm) and X-band (3 cm). The multi-frequency data will be used by the international scientific community to better understand the global environment and how it is changing. The SIR-C/X-SAR data, complemented by aircraft and ground studies, will give scientists clearer insights into those environmental changes which are caused by nature and those changes which are induced by human activity.
SIR-C was developed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. X-SAR was developed by the Dornier and Alenia Spazio companies for the German space agency, Deutsche Agentur fuer Raumfahrtangelegenheiten (DARA), and the Italian space agency, Agenzia Spaziale Italiana (ASI).
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