Heron Island is located in Queensland, Australia, approximately 45 miles (72 kilometers) off the Australian mainland, to the northeast of Gladstone. Part of Australia's Great Barrier Reef, the island is an evergreen coral cay surrounded by Wistari coral reef. Although just 42 acres in size, the island is home to a large resort and the University of Queensland's Heron Island Research Station. The island is famous for diving and snorkeling and is a World Heritage-Listed Marine National Park. It is one of two locations on the Great Barrier Reef that are serving as bases for in-water validation activities for NASA's Coral Reef Airborne Laboratory (CORAL) mission, which is studying the condition and function of the Great Barrier Reef and selected reef systems worldwide using NASA's airborne Portable Remote Imaging Spectrometer (PRISM) instrument from an altitude of 28,000 feet (8,500 meters).
The Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) instrument on NASA's Terra spacecraft acquired this image of Heron Island and its surroundings on December 22, 2001. The island appears at the left of the reef (Heron Reef) in the center of the image. Vegetation is red on the image. The image covers an area of 10.3 by 18.6 miles (16.5 by 30.0 kilometers), and is located at 23.5 degrees south, 151.9 degrees east.
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/.