This topographic image acquired by SRTM shows an area south of the Sao Francisco River in Brazil. The scrub forest terrain shows relief of about 400 meters (1300 feet). Areas such as these are difficult to map by traditional methods because of frequent cloud cover and local inaccessibility. This region has little topographic relief, but even subtle changes in topography have far-reaching effects on regional ecosystems. The image covers an area of 57 km x 79 km and represents one quarter of the 225 km SRTM swath. Colors range from dark blue at water level to white and brown at hill tops. The terrain features that are clearly visible in this image include tributaries of the Sao Francisco, the dark-blue branch-like features visible from top right to bottom left, and on the left edge of the image, and hills rising up from the valley floor. The San Francisco River is a major source of water for irrigation and hydroelectric power. Mapping such regions will allow scientists to better understand the relationships between flooding cycles, forestation and human influences on ecosystems.
This shaded relief image was generated using topographic data from the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission. A computer-generated artificial light source illuminates the elevation data to produce a pattern of light and shadows. Slopes facing the light appear bright, while those facing away are shaded. On flatter surfaces, the pattern of light and shadows can reveal subtle features in the terrain. Shaded relief maps are commonly used in applications such as geologic mapping and land use planning.
The Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM), launched on February 11, 2000, uses the same radar instrument that comprised the Spaceborne Imaging Radar-C/X-Band Synthetic Aperture Radar (SIR-C/X-SAR) that flew twice on the Space Shuttle Endeavour in 1994. The mission is designed to collect three-dimensional measurements of the Earth's surface. To collect the 3-D data, engineers added a 60-meter-long (200-foot) mast, an additional C-band imaging antenna and improved tracking and navigation devices. The mission is a cooperative project between the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA) and the German and Italian space agencies. It is managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA, for NASA's Earth Science Enterprise, Washington, DC.