4 of 6Image
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.
Tom Sever and Rob Griffin
Deep in the Guatemalan jungle, NASA archaeologist Tom Sever, right, and Rob Griffin, a graduate student at Pennsylvania State University in College Park, Pa., study a crumbled "stele," a stone pyramid used by the Maya to record information or display ornately carved art.