Based on measurements from NASA’s Terra spacecraft, a new 3D topographic map has been released as a joint effort by NASA and Japan. The digital elevation model (DEM) was developed from imagery obtained from the Japanese Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer, or ASTER, instrument aboard Terra. ASTER is one of five Earth-observing instruments launched Dec. 18, 1999, on Terra and was built by Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. ASTER has 14 spectral bands from the visible to the thermal infrared wavelength region and a spatial resolution of 15 to 90 meters (about 50 to 300 feet).
The previous version of this ASTER global DEM was released in June of 2009 and was developed from 1.3 million images. An additional 260,000 additional stereo-pair images were added to enhance the latest version of the DEM. From NASA’s press release:
“This updated version of the ASTER global digital elevation model provides civilian users with the highest-resolution global topography data available,” said Mike Abrams, ASTER science team leader at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. “These data can be used for a broad range of applications, from planning highways and protecting lands with cultural or environmental significance, to searching for natural resources.”
The ASTER DEM covers 99 percent of the earth’s land surface from 83 degrees north latitude to 83 degrees south. Each elevation point is 30 meters apart.
Data users can download the ASTER global digital elevation model at: https://lpdaac.usgs.gov/ or http://www.ersdac.or.jp/GDEM/E/4.html.