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IKONOS view of a bajo
A high-resolution, false-color image taken by the commercial Earth-observation satellite IKONOS shows a Guatemalan "bajo," or a broad lowland area that is often partially submerged during the rainy season. The yellowish areas, which denote discolorations of the dense forest canopy, also pinpoint ancient Mayan building sites.
TikalIn a side-by-side comparison, space-based images captured by two commercial Earth-observation satellites--the Landsat TM, left, and the IKONOS--focus on the ancient ruins of Tikal, a Mayan city deep in the Guatemalan rain forest. The Landsat imaging system has a nominal resolution of 30 meters, while the IKONOS can capture a nominal resolution as close as 1 meter, a scale at which individual pyramids, pathways and small structures become apparent. Both use false-color imaging--depicting subjects in colors that differ from human perception--to help NASA and university scientists study patterns of jungle growth and floral discoloration that is enabling discovery of Maya ruins lost for more than 1,000 years.
Ever-improving optics, imaging and satellite technologies play a key role in enabling scientists to conduct increasingly sophisticated Earth science activities around the world.
Daniel Irwin and William Saturno
NASA scientist Daniel Irwin, left, and archaeologist William Saturno, explore a trench below an ancient Mayan pyramid in Guatemala.