This image from NASA's Terra spacecraft highlights the epicenter of a powerful magnitude 6.6 earthquake which struck Sichuan Province in southwest China on April 20, 2013. Vegetation is displayed in red; clouds and snow are in white.

A powerful magnitude 6.6 earthquake struck Sichuan Province in southwest China on April 20, 2013, killing scores and injuring thousands, according to BBC News. Villages and roads near the epicenter were left in ruins, hampering rescue efforts. The earthquake occurred along the same fault that ruptured in 2008, killing tens of thousands and leaving some 5,000,000 people homeless. This perspective image from the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) instrument on NASA's Terra spacecraft, acquired in 2003, highlights the epicenter of the new earthquake. Vegetation is displayed in red; clouds and snow are in white.

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

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