UNCW nanosatellite captures 5,000th photo from space

The UNCW Center for Marine Science has been working hard over the past year to capture images of our oceans and waterways from space.
Published: Sep. 26, 2022 at 6:24 AM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - The UNCW Center for Marine Science has been working hard over the past year to capture images of our oceans and waterways from space. The high-resolution photos are captured by UNCW’s first nanosatellite, Seahawk-1, using a small sensor within it called HawkEye.

This month, they reached a milestone by capturing their 5,000th photo.

The photos taken are cataloged in a NASA database and are available for scientists worldwide, allowing them to study a wide range of topics like beach erosion, pollution and the impact of climate change. The images from this satellite are 100 times clearer than other ocean satellites in space.

According to Dr. Phillip Bresnahan, UNCW Earth and Ocean Sciences assistant professor, there are other satellites out there, such as ones developed by NASA, the European Space Agency and Japan to name a few, but none have as high of a resolution as UNCW’s Seahawk-1.

“Because of the higher resolution images, we can see finer features on surface waters and land like swirls, eddies and fine changes to water quality,” Bresnahan said.

Seahawk-1 orbits earth 15 times a day. One unique feature of this satellite is that it doesn’t saturate the colors over land, like others do. This means scientists can see fine features on land masses like icebergs, beaches and riverbanks. The satellite also keeps an eye on North Carolinas intercostal waterways and the Cape Fear River.

High-resolution photo of North Carolina from Seahawk-1 satellite in space.
High-resolution photo of North Carolina from Seahawk-1 satellite in space.(WECT)

The funding for this project began with a grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. In 2015, they received $4.3 million from a 5-year grant. In June of 2021, the Moore Foundation continued their support by providing $2.2 million more for further research.

This is just the beginning of Seahawk-1, which should be up and running for years to come.