2020’s Most Newsworthy Events Captured by Planet’s Satellites

Planet
Planet
Dec 21, 2020 · 4 min read

Core to our mission of making satellite imagery visible, accessible, and actionable, Planet continues to provide our data to news organizations, NGOs and first responders in an effort to promote transparency and provide the world with greater insight into global events as they unfold.

2020 saw no shortage of newsworthy events — from Covid-19 shutdowns, rogue icebergs, nuclear developments in Iran, and much more. As the year comes to a close, we’re taking a look from above at some of the most notable events that shaped this historic and difficult year.

Planet SkySat Imagery Reveals Extent of Damage at Al-Asad Air base in Iraq

Extensive damage can be seen in SkySat imagery captured of Al-Asad Air Base following an Iranian missile strike in early January.

© 2020, Planet Labs Inc. All Rights Reserved.

What the World Looks Like When Everything Stops

Planet’s satellites provided a glimpse into life in global lockdown, as a result of Covid-19.

© 2020, Planet Labs Inc. All Rights Reserved.
© 2020, Planet Labs Inc. All Rights Reserved.
© 2020, Planet Labs Inc. All Rights Reserved.
© 2020, Planet Labs Inc. All Rights Reserved.
© 2020, Planet Labs Inc. All Rights Reserved.
© 2020, Planet Labs Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Black Lives Matter Mural Painted on Streets of Washington, D.C. is captured by SkySat

As demands for social justice reached new heights nationwide, satellite imagery clearly showed the bright yellow message on the street leading to the White House in Washington, D.C.

© 2020, Planet Labs Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Satellite Imagery of Beirut Sheds Light on Major Explosion at the Port

First responders and journalists turned to satellite images to better understand the massive explosion in August at Beirut’s port that was felt nearly 150 miles away.

© 2020, Planet Labs Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Oil Tankers Stripped of their Flags After Defying U.S. sanctions

Using Planet’s daily global satellite data maritime research firm, TankerTrackers, was able to catch four oil tankers that had manipulated their tracking data to hide covert visits to Iranian waters, where they collectively picked up millions of barrels of oil.

© 2020, Planet Labs Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Bulk Carrier Splits in Two after Running Aground in Mauritius

A bulk carrier ran aground off Mauritius, spilling 1,000 tonnes of oil and causing the country’s worst ecological disaster. A series of dramatic satellite images captured the vessel as the oil leak spread and the ship eventually broke apart due to strong currents.

© 2020, Planet Labs Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Satellite imagery appears to show Chinese submarine using underground base

Planet satellites captured a rare site in the South China Sea — a submarine entering an underground base on Hainan Island.

© 2020, Planet Labs Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Journalists Use Blank Spots In China’s Maps To Investigate Xinjiang’s Internment Camps

Due to limited access to information about Xinjiang, China, journalists at Buzzfeed News turned to satellite imagery to find and identify more than 260 structures built since 2017 that bear the hallmarks of fortified detention compounds.

Blanked-out spots on China’s maps helped Buzzfeed News uncover Xinjiang’s camps. Credit: Buzzfeed News

Arecibo Observatory to be Closed Following Devastating Damage

One of astronomy’s most renowned telescopes will be decommissioned after sustaining catastrophic damage earlier this year after two cables supporting the structure broke suddenly.

© 2020, Planet Labs Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Planet Captures Portion of Iceberg A68a Floating in Open Ocean

SkySat captured a sliver of Iceberg A68a, which in total measures roughly 144 km (89 miles) in length. The berg broke away from Antarctica in 2017 and is now heading directly for the South Atlantic island of South Georgia.

© 2020, Planet Labs Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Iran Rebuilds Main Nuclear Fuel Enrichment Facility Underground

Following a vow to rebuild a key Iranian nuclear facility underground after it was destroyed in July, the New York Times and Jeffrey Lewis from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, used Planet satellite imagery to identify the likely new location of the underground facility south of the Natanz nuclear site.

Credit: The New York Times

Planet is dedicated to helping researchers and journalists investigate and respond to important issues, and our tools are designed to do just that. If you haven’t already, sign up for a Planet Explorer account — free for the first two weeks — and email press@planet.com to learn how you can include satellite data to tell visual and compelling stories.

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