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Innovation

Shut down illegal radio-frequency interference, better for climate research

The European Space Agency satellite has gotten some bad data. Blame radio interference. But the ESA is cleaning up the interference - and it's starting to pay off.
Written by Boonsri Dickinson, Contributing Editor on

The International Telecommunications Union gave the Earth Exploration Satellite Service a special frequency to use.

So the $434 million Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity (SMOS) satellite operates on this frequency.

Although, the satellite should be collecting clean, climate information, sometimes it can't.

"These snapshots correspond to microwave radiation being emitted from Earth's surface and relate to the amount of moisture in soil and salinity in the ocean. This information is needed to improve our understanding of Earth's water cycle," the agency said.

But illegal radio and TV transmissions have been messing up some of the data. In some regions of the world, the data is really contaminated.

This map above shows the radio transmissions hot spots, which appear to be the Middle East, Asia, and Europe.

This is rather frustrating, so the European Space Agency have been doing something about it.

Hello, transmission police. The National Spectrum Authorities are working with the ESA to end this, by investigating where the interference is coming from.

ESA wants the illegal devices transmitting signals on the protected band to stop. Sometimes, the fix is easy. Just re-tune the device so it's back on the correct frequency band.

Other times, authorities are contacted about the illegal interference. And then, crew members are sent out with sensors to figure out where the signal is coming from.

These are a few things to blame for contamination:

  • TV transmitters
  • radio links
  • networks
  • radars

What does interference look like? Look at Spain. The image is fuzzy, as you can see. Sometimes it renders the satellite data useless because the satellite can no longer see what it was looking for.

Here is Spain with very little radio interference. The image is much cleaner.

So please, stay out of the 1400-1427 MHz transmission range. Let space and climate researchers have their dedicated frequency band.

"Painstaking efforts to reduce these unwanted signals are now paying off," the agency said.

Photo: ESA

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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