2018 Newsworthy Events Seen From Space

Dec 21, 2018 · 4 min read
At 597 feet, India’s Statue of Unity is now the tallest statue in the world. Captured by SkySat on November 15, 2018.

2017 was packed full of newsworthy events, and 2018 was no different. In this post, we recap the most impactful events of 2018 (as seen from space!) including volcanic eruptions, secret missile bases, open-ocean naval exercises, and devastating natural disasters.

Satellite imagery provides a unique perspective of things happening on Earth and helps businesses, governments, news organizations, NGOs, and first responders better understand the physical aspects of events taking place around the world to make smarter decisions. Enjoy!

Chinese Naval Exercises Spotted in the South China Sea

Chinese naval exercises can be seen in stunning detail in the open ocean off Hainan island in the South China Sea.

Chinese Naval Fleet on March 26, 2018. (©2018 Planet Labs, Inc. cc-by-sa 4.0)

An Island Camp Built to House Rohingya

Development of roads and buildings on a remote island in the Bay of Bengal indicated Bangladeshi officials are preparing the island to house 100,000 Rohingya.

Development from January 2018 — December 2018. (©2018 Planet Labs, Inc. cc-by-sa 4.0)

Construction of Migrant Child Facilities in Texas

A temporary tent city is built in Tornillo, Texas to house thousands of migrant children.

Tornillo, Texas on September 13, 2018. (©2018 Planet Labs, Inc. cc-by-sa 4.0)

Devastating Camp Fire Burns Through Northern California

Just four hours after the Camp Fire in Butte County, California erupted, Planet’s Dove satellites caught some of the first images of the blaze.

The Camp Fire on November 11, 2018. (©2018 Planet Labs, Inc. cc-by-sa 4.0)
Near-infrared imagery of the aftermath of the Camp Fire in Paradise, California on November 18, 2018. (©2018 Planet Labs, Inc. cc-by-sa 4.0)

Military Strikes on Three Targeted Sites in Syria

The United States, along with France and Britain, launched military strikes on three sites suspected to be part of Syria’s chemical weapons program.

Barzah research and development center, Syria on May 3, 2017 and April 18. 2018. (©2018 Planet Labs, Inc. cc-by-sa 4.0)

Monitoring Coal Emissions in China

China publishes its coal power-plant usage with a one-year delay. This did not stop Carbon Tracker, a UK-based, non-profit financial think tank, from using satellite imagery to immediately estimate the country’s emissions, fuel stocks, and other commercially important measures.

October 2016 — September 2018. (©2018 Planet Labs, Inc. cc-by-sa 4.0)

Devastation in Indonesia

Damage caused by an earthquake and resulting tsunami in Palu, Indonesia was more wide-spread than what can be seen in a photograph. Satellite imagery taken three days after the earthquake show the broad impact of the disaster.

Palu, Indonesia on October 1, 2018. (©2018 Planet Labs, Inc. cc-by-sa 4.0)

North Korea Expands Missile Facility

Newly erected buildings at a missile facility in the northern suburbs of Pyongyang indicate continued progress in the country’s nuclear and missile program, stated analysts at Middlebury Institute of International Studies (MIIS) at Monterey, California.

Pyongyang, North Korea on July 29, 2018. (©2018 Planet Labs, Inc. cc-by-sa 4.0)

Rapid expansion of re-education centers in China’s Xinjiang region

Satellite imagery reveals a growing camp with large scale construction of new housing for detainees, parking lots, more guard towers, and a dorm for construction workers.

April 2017 — August 2018. (©2018 Planet Labs, Inc. cc-by-sa 4.0)

Remote Missile Facility Found in Iran

California-based analysts at MIIS discovered a secret nuclear facility at a remote Iranian desert site that is believed to be building advanced rocket engines and rocket fuel.

Annotations: David Schmerler/Center for Nonproliferation Studies. (©2018 Planet Labs, Inc. cc-by-sa 4.0)
SkySat and PlanetScope imagery of test site in Shahrud. (©2018 Planet Labs, Inc. cc-by-sa 4.0)

Monitoring the World’s Most Strategic Oil Shipping Routes

TankerTrackers uses AIS data to track oil flows and estimate the output of key producers such as Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia. When these vessels turn their AIS transponders off, TankerTrackers relies on satellite imagery to monitor clandestine activities.

Port of Nampo. (©2018 Planet Labs, Inc. cc-by-sa 4.0)

Kilauea Volcano’s Violent Eruption

The explosive eruption of Kilauea Volcano on Hawaii Island unleashed a cloud of hazardous ash 30,000 feet covering the once serene Leilani Estates.

Pahoa, Hawaii on December 2009 (USGS High Resolution State Orthoimagery) and September 2018 (Planet SkySat). (©2018 Planet Labs, Inc. cc-by-sa 4.0)

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