What is Earth observation?

[An animation image appears of clouds in a sky]

Narrator: Will it rain tomorrow?

[Image moves up until an animation of a wheat crop can be seen below the clouds]

How big will the wheat harvest be?

[Animation image shows cracks appearing through the ground growing the wheat]

How much damage did the earthquake cause?

[Animation image changes to show the world globe and the camera zooms out to show satellites orbiting the earth and their beams covering the earth and text appears beneath: Earth Observation]

We can answer questions like these with Earth Observation using sensors to learn about land, water and the atmosphere.

[Animation images move through to show a satellite attached to a buoy moving up and down in the ocean, a drone and a plane moving through the sky, and then a satellite circling the earth]

The sensors can be placed on the ground, attached to buoys, or flown on drones and aircraft but most often they’re carried on satellites.

[Camera zooms out to show four satellites encircling the earth]

Using satellites has many advantages. They can cover large regions even the whole earth.

[Camera zooms in on the world globe and a weather system can be seen moving across Australia on the globe and bar graphs can be seen at the bottom of the screen]

Monitoring can be systematic and continuous. For instance, weather measurements are taken as often as every ten minutes.

[Camera zooms out to show the same image on a computer screen and two hands can be seen pointing to the information on the screen]

Satellite observations give us consistent objective data that could be shared by many users.

[Camera zooms in on Australia on the computer screen and circles appear around problem areas on the map and then three computer screens appear showing data at various spots on the map]

These data provide the information we need to make decisions and take action, to identify problems and protect the natural environment, to provide help after disasters, and to monitor our planet’s systems and predict changes.

[Animation image changes to show a computer screen displaying a chart showing various Electromagnetic radiation lines and text appears above the chart: Electromagnetic spectrum]

Most Earth Observation involves sensing some kind of electromagnetic radiation.

[Animation image changes to show the world globe covered with sunlight radiation lines]

Often this is ordinary sunlight.

[Animation image moves down and a satellite can be seen moving around the globe emitting radio waves towards the earth]

Sometimes it’s infra-red radiation. We can even use radar where the satellite sends out radio waves and receives their reflections.

[Animation image shows clouds appearing around the surface of the globe and the image shows the satellite continuing to travel]

The benefit of radar is that it can see through cloud and at night.

[Animation image zooms out to show four different satellites orbiting Earth and then dotted lines appear linking the satellites up to the CSIRO logo and the camera zooms in on the logo]

Hundreds of Earth observing satellites orbit the planet and they’re all giving us information we need to manage our world now and in the future.

[Music plays]

Satellites have the power to view and monitor the Earth as a whole, providing data to help us monitor the changing world around us.

About us

We are CSIRO’s hub for our national and international Earth observation (EO) activities. We support CSIRO in applications and research for EO data, brokers access to EO data from new sensors and facilitates underpinning EO activities by over 80 scientists across CSIRO.

The Centre actively engages with International partners, Australian businesses, government agencies and research organisations. We are a member of the inter-agency Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS) and an Australian delegation member to the intergovernmental Group on Earth Observation (GEO). The CCEO worked closely with Australian government partners to host the 2019 GEO Ministerial Summit. Please explore the GEO Report on Impact 2016-2019.

Officially launched in June 2018, the Centre coordinates a range of Earth-observing activities within CSIRO and engages with Australian businesses, other government agencies and research organisations involved in Earth Observation (EO). The Centre’s aim is to provide technical support to the Australian space sector, and help streamline research and the operation of projects through advances in remote sensing technologies. The Centre also plays a key role in our international engagement with the global EO community.

The Centre for Earth Observation’s key priorities include:

  • coordinating internal communities of practice (SAR, hyperspectral, LiDAR), and liaison with domestic government
  • coordinating representation (including on boards and working groups) at international fora, such as GEO and CEOS
  • managing CSIRO’s requirements for satellite tasking, downlink and data distribution for the NovaSAR-1 satellite
  • hosting events to facilitate research collaborations for the EO community, including Symposia and workshops
  • overseeing the Cubesat technology demonstrator project, a collaboration with university and industry partners
  • researching new satellite sensor and on-board processing technologies and ongoing satellite calibration / validation

CSIRO has been working in the space sector for 75 years, with a long history in space research (explore the timeline from the 1940s to now); both looking into outer space and observing Earth

Find out the latest from our team, with updates on new programs and activity across the centre.

Meet our core team from across Australia leading the centre and our Earth observation activities.

Explore some of the applications of Earth observation data our researchers are developing.