From the Ground and from the Sky- Analysing and understanding images of planet Earth taken from space

Brief description

In this set of three activities, pupils are introduced to the idea of remote observation of the Earth from space. They are asked to match photographs of different landscapes (mountains, lakes, rivers, cities, islands, and deserts) taken from the ground with photos of the same places taken by astronauts onboard the International Space Station, and also with photos taken by Earth Observation satellites. In particular, this resource uses photos from Sentinel-1 and Sentinel-2, missions that have been developed by ESA as part of the Copernicus programme.

Subject Geography, Science

Learning Objectives

• Learn about the different perspectives from which you can observe an object
• Investigate the difference between photos taken from the ground (on Earth) and images taken from space
• Find out what lakes, mountains, rivers, islands, deserts, and cities look like from space
• Discover the advantages and importance of taking images from space with Earth Observation satellites
• To analyse images and extract relevant information
• To associate different objects based on a set of criteria
• To work together and share conclusions

Age range
8 – 12 years old
approximately 45 minutes per activity
Resource available in:
Activity 1: The Earth seen from the ISS
In this activity, pupils are introduced to photos taken by ESA astronauts onboard the International Space Station (ISS). The objective is to demonstrate how a vantage point from space, such as the ISS, can provide a unique perspective from which we can monitor environmental processes and change.
Activity 2: Match the Photos
In this activity, pupils look at photos of various landscapes. They match and compare images taken from the ground and from the ISS, improving their ability to analyse images and to see the Earth from a new perspective.
Activity 3: Higher up!
This activity presents pupils with photos of our planet’s landscape taken from the ground, as well as images taken by Earth observation satellites. Earth observation satellites are located at various orbits: some are lower than the International Space Station, others are as far as 36 000 km above the surface of the Earth! Pupils observe the photos and match the photos of mountains, lakes, rivers, cities, islands, and deserts taken from the ground with those taken by satellites in space.

Did you know?

Earth observation satellite images are extremely useful, for example for
making detailed maps, checking for variations in vegetation, monitoring
pollution, helping to predict the weather, and much more! Sometimes
the final images can look quite strange. For example the image on the
right shows a glacier. It is actually made up of three images taken over
a period of seven weeks. The grey colours represent parts that have not moved during this period, and the bright colours represent parts that have moved or changed in different ways during this time.

The Electromagnetic Spectrum – Advanced

Explore what satellites can see with their sensors and learn about the properties of the electromagnetic waves. Video by ESERO Germany (in English).

The spatial resolution

The observation of our planet with the help of satellites largely depends on the different characteristics of their sensors. The spatial resolution, that is explained in this video, is one of these characteristics. Video by...

The spectral resolution

Earth observation satellites are guardians of our planet. Thanks to remote sensing technology and daily data collection, researchers are able to better monitor our planet’s oceans and rising sea levels from space. ESA senior advisor...

Land-use change

Satellite images enable us to document changes in land use very precisely. Discover how satellites provide information about land use on a global scale. Video by ESERO Germany (in English).