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Spatial Investigations of Remote Sensing

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What Can You See From 400 Miles Above the Earth?

Rita Freuder, Kevin Rock, Michael Gagnon, Complex Systems Research Center, University of New Hampshire

Aerial image of Boston taken by IKONOS in September 2000
Looking at a satellite or aerial photograph requires a student to think about how a view of something familiar, for example, of a student's school building viewed from the street, alters when seen from above. We experience this somewhat on the nightly news, when we see the weather report and the clouds above the geographic US with state outlines. Many students have had the experience of being on an airplane, and so can understand that as you go higher, features on the earth become smaller, and that the roof of a building may appear to be just a rectangle when viewed from above. It is important for the student to understand how a scale of feet or miles on an image can help you understand what you are seeing. The concept of zoom is commonly used in many video games, as well as on digital cameras and digital picture display programs, browsers and even Microsoft Word. Zooming is used in this student hands-on activity which requires only that the student be able to view a power point file.