Nokor Pheas Trapeng is the name of the large black rectangular feature in the center-bottom of this image, acquired by NASA's Airborne Synthetic Aperture Radar (AIRSAR). Its Khmer name translates as "Tank of the City of Refuge." The immense tank is a typical structure built by the Khmer for water storage and control, but its size is unusually large. This suggests, as does "city" in its name, that in ancient times this area was far more prosperous than today.
A visit to this remote, inaccessible site was made in December 1998. The huge water tank was hardly visible. From the radar data we knew that the tank stretched some 500 meters (1,640 feet) from east to west. However, between all the plants growing on the surface of the water and the trees and other vegetation in the area, the water tank blended with the surrounding topography. Among the vegetation, on the northeast of the tank, were remains of an ancient temple and a spirit shrine. So although far from the temples of Angkor, to the southeast, the ancient water structure is still venerated by the local people.
The image covers an area approximately 9.5 by 8.7 kilometers (5.9 by 5.4 miles) with a pixel spacing of 5 meters (16.4 feet). North is at top. Image brightness is from the C-band (5.6 centimeters, or 2.2 inches) wavelength radar backscatter, which is a measure of how much energy the surface reflects back toward the radar. Color is used to represent elevation contours. One cycle of color represents 20 meters (65.6 feet) of elevation change; that is, going from blue to red to yellow to green and back to blue again corresponds to 20 meters (65.6 feet) of elevation change.
AIRSAR flies aboard a NASA DC-8 based at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif. In the TOPSAR mode, AIRSAR collects radar interferometry data from two spatially separated antennas (2.6 meters, or 8.5 feet). Information from the two antennas is used to form radar backscatter imagery and to generate highly accurate elevation data. Built, operated and managed by JPL, AIRSAR is part of NASA's Earth Science Enterprise program. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.