The tri-county Riley Road wildfire burning in Texas north of Houston was 85 percent contained when the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) instrument on NASA's Terra spacecraft acquired this image on Sept. 12, 2011. More than 19,000 acres and approximately 100 homes have been consumed since the fire started a week ago. The burned areas are dark gray and black; vegetation appears red; and bare ground and roads are light gray. Nearly 21,000 wildfires have erupted across Texas during the current wildfire season, destroying more than 1,500 homes, more than half of which have been lost since Labor Day weekend alone, stoked by high winds and drought conditions. Texas is currently suffering through its worst one-year drought on record. The image covers an area of 13.2 by 13.7 miles (21.3 by 22.2 kilometers) and is located near 30.2 degrees north latitude, 95.8 degrees west longitude.
With its 14 spectral bands from the visible to the thermal infrared wavelength region and its high spatial resolution of 15 to 90 meters (about 50 to 300 feet), ASTER images Earth to map and monitor the changing surface of our planet. ASTER is one of five Earth-observing instruments launched Dec. 18, 1999, on Terra. The instrument was built by Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. A joint U.S./Japan science team is responsible for validation and calibration of the instrument and data products.
The broad spectral coverage and high spectral resolution of ASTER provides scientists in numerous disciplines with critical information for surface mapping and monitoring of dynamic conditions and temporal change. Example applications are: monitoring glacial advances and retreats; monitoring potentially active volcanoes; identifying crop stress; determining cloud morphology and physical properties; wetlands evaluation; thermal pollution monitoring; coral reef degradation; surface temperature mapping of soils and geology; and measuring surface heat balance.
The U.S. science team is located at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. The Terra mission is part of NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C.
More information about ASTER is available at http://asterweb.jpl.nasa.gov/.