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The Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer
(ASTER) is the zoom lens aboard NASA's Terra spacecraft. With its
Visible and Near Infrared (VNIR) subsystem, ASTER has the ability to
collect imagery at up to 15 meters per pixel spatial resolution, while
its Thermal Infrared (TIR) subsystem produces images at up to 90 meters
These ASTER false-color images were acquired over Braidwood Nuclear power plant in Illinois, located about 75 km (47 miles)
southwest of Chicago near where the Illinois and Kankakee Rivers
intersect. Braidwood Nuclear can be seen in the VNIR image (top) as the bright
blue-whitepixels just above the large cooling pond. Like many power
plants, Braidwood Nuclear uses a cooling pond to discharge heated effluent
water. In this image, the red shades of the surrounding landscape show
In the bottom image, a single ASTER Thermal Infrared band was color
coded to represent heat emitted from the surface. The warmest areas are
white; progressively cooler areas are colored red, orange, yellow,
green, blue, and black for the coolest. Note the bright white plume of
hot water discharged from the power plant. The water grows
progressively cooler as it circulates around the pond.
This image of the Balakovo Nuclear Power Station and the Saratov Hydroelectric Power Station was captured by ASTER on January 29, 2004. Small puffs of clouds hang over the Balakovo Nuclear Power Plant cooling pond. The cooling pond and the stretch of open water downriver of the dam at the Saratov Hydroelectric Station are the only places free of winter’s grip.