National Science Week

National Science Week is Australia’s annual celebration of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) and will be held from Saturday 15 to Sunday 23 August 2020.

This year the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory are participating in the world’s biggest Satellite Selfie. There is a significant amount of science in a selfie – from the minerals and elements in the mobile device to the positioning information that is stored with the image. Each day during National Science Week we will bring you content about the science in the selfie.

Satellites take selfies every day of every year

Imagine if you took a selfie in the same place every day for a year. At the end of the year you would have 365 images and each image would have subtle differences, for example it might be sunny in some and raining in others. You could also see many other differences like how your hair or face had changed over this time. In a similar way satellite images show us pictures of the Earth over time so that we can see how it is changing.

The Digital Earth Australia (DEA) team are earth observation scientists, data scientists, product developers and software engineers who work together to access, process and publish Australia’s free and open archive of satellite imagery.

Just like a selfie, satellite imagery is not always perfect and the quality of the images can be affected by factors such as sunlight and cloud cover and shadows. The DEA team corrects these factors to improve the quality of satellite images. It’s a bit like adding a correction filter to a selfie only much more complicated.

The DEA team organise this ‘corrected’ satellite data into series of consistent, time-stamped observations to provide insights on how the Australian landscape is changing over time. This insight is then helping everyone from our farmers who can use it to be more efficient and sustainable through to our governments who use it to manage our water and monitor the health of our environment.

To support the satellite selfie from this year’s National Science Week, the team will receive a number of satellite images and will check and correct the content. They will then stitch the images together to make a single satellite selfie that includes all the areas captured by the satellite during the flyover.

The satellite selfie image will be added onto National Map where you can zoom in to view your selfie or explore other areas of the ACT and NT that you are interested in.

Would you believe that Elvis is key to your network connection?

The elevation of a location is how high or deep it is in relation to a specific reference point like average sea level. Elevation measurements can be taken using technology such as LiDAR sensors on airplanes.

Elevation data can be processed to create models of the Earth's surface. These models can be used to answer questions like: How will a fire behave in this area? What is the best path for a new road between two points? Will this land be underwater in the future as the sea level rises?

The data can be analysed and used to create models of specific areas, locations and landscapes. Elevation data is used in many ways and is essential to a huge number of Australian industries.

Digital elevation data describing Australia's landforms and seabed is crucial for addressing issues relating to the impacts of climate variability, disaster management, water security, environmental management, urban planning and infrastructure design.

Many industries, such as telecommunications, rely on elevation data to effectively plan their networks and coverages. Even more industries depend on mobile technology, so placing mobile phone towers, like the one in Rob's selfie, in the right location is crucial.

The Elevation Information System also known as Elvis is where you can get elevation information about Australia's land and seabed, and is home to data from all the states and territories.

Geospatial analysts like Rob, build the infrastructure to support Elvis and ensure that elevation data can be accessed and used by anyone at any time to address current and future needs.

The technology that puts your selfie on the map!

There are over 30 different minerals and elements within your mobile phone. These include lithium, titanium, chromium, aluminium, copper, platinum, zinc, zirconium, silver and even gold!

Have you ever wondered how your phone is able to record where and when you took your last selfie?

Most phones use the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) to determine the position of the phone at regular points of time. Depending on the type of phone and the settings, your position information can be captured and stored with your photo. This is how your photo can tell you where and when you took your selfie.

Geodetic scientists like Alistair use signals from satellites orbiting the Earth to observe the surface motion of Australia. These observations enhance our understanding of where we are in the world at any point in time.

Alistair’s selfie is at a geodetic monitoring site with a Global Navigation Satellite System ground station and an Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar transponder.

In the coming years geodetic information, like the data pin pointing your selfie location, will drive innovation across Australian community and industry.

From the construction and agriculture industries, to emergency response management, understanding where people are has the potential to deliver huge business efficiencies, streamline response activities and save lives.

You can’t take a selfie without a camera and your camera can’t take a selfie without critical minerals

There are over 30 different minerals and elements within your mobile phone. These include lithium, titanium, chromium, aluminium, copper, platinum, zinc, zirconium, silver and even gold!

These minerals and elements are in the electronic system, screen, battery, circuit board, connectors and the frame.

Allison is holding a piece of lithium bearing pegmatite in her selfie. If you have your phone in your hand right now you may be holding a small amount of lithium as well.

Mobile phones are not the only devices that use minerals. Electric vehicles, wind turbines, medical devices, lights, lasers, satellites, fibre optics and magnets all use minerals and have become essential technologies that we rely on in our everyday lives.

Many of the minerals in these products are considered to be critical. This means they are vital for modern technology and are at potential risk of disrupted supply.

Allison works in the team that compiles Australia's inventory of mineral resources. Australia has world-leading resources and Geoscience Australia helps mining companies discover them. We do this through national geological surveys that measure and analyse the Earth's properties, and create maps and tools that help uncover minerals and elements hidden deep underground.

What is your best angle?

Our position on the globe is essential to everyday life. Positioning allows us to locate ourselves in the world, identify where we are and helps to get us where we want to go.

Satellite positioning technologies have enabled the precise navigation and positioning we rely on at the touch of a button, from smartphones to autonomous vehicles. This brings increased productivity, improved community safety and boosted innovation.

Before satellite technology, trig points, like the one in Hanna's first selfie, provided reference marks on the landscape to pinpoint a location. This is also known as triangulating a position.

Today the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) and GNSS ground stations are used as the modern equivalent of this old technique. The data collected through the GNSS ground based infrastructure is the information your phone uses to locate your position.

Hanna is part of the team in Positioning Australia who are responsible for the GNSS ground based infrastructure. This includes scientific equipment that receives data from a global networks of satellites.

Hanna's second selfie is with one of our favourite robots. This robot helps calibrates our GNSS ground station equipment before it's sent into the field.

Over the next 3 years the data collected and streamed from GNSS ground stations will support the National Positioning Infrastructure capability and will enhance the accuracy, reliability and availability of positioning data in Australia.