The ruins of Machu Picchu, rediscovered in 1911 by Hiram Bingham, are one of the most beautiful and enigmatic ancient sites in the world. While the Inca people utilized the Andean mountain top (2800 m elevation), erecting massive stone structures from the early 1400's, legends and myths indicate that Machu Picchu (meaning "Old Peak" in the Quechua language) was revered as a sacred place from a far earlier time. The Inca turned the site into a small (12 square kilometers) but extraordinary city. Invisible from the Urubamba River valley below and completely self-contained, surrounded by agricultural terraces sufficient to feed the population, and watered by natural springs, Machu Picchu seems to have been utilized by the Inca as a secret ceremonial city. The Spaniards never found Machu Picchu, even though they suspected its existence. The mountain top sanctuary fell into disuse and was abandoned some forty years after the Spanish took Cuzco in 1533. Supply lines linking the many Inca social centers were disrupted and the great empire came to an end.
This image was acquired on June 25, 2001 by the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) on NASA's Terra satellite. 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 will image Earth for the next 6 years to map and monitor the changing surface of our planet.
ASTER is one of five Earth-observing instruments launched December 18, 1999, on NASA's Terra satellite. 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 the data products.
The broad spectral coverage and high spectral resolution of ASTER will provide scientists in numerous disciplines with critical information for surface mapping, and monitoring 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.
Dr. Anne Kahle at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, is the U.S. Science team leader; Bjorn Eng of JPL is the project manager. The Terra mission is part of NASA's Earth Science Enterprise, a long-term research and technology program designed to examine Earth's land, oceans, atmosphere, ice and life as a total integrated system.
Size: 12 x 15 km (7.3 x 9.44 miles)
Location: 13.2 deg. South lat., 72.5 deg. West long.
Orientation: North at top
Image Data: ASTER bands 1,2, and 3.
Original Data Resolution: 15 m
Date Acquired: June 25, 2001