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Maryn
12-04-2005, 01:27 AM
All suspense/thriller readers have come across this one--it's on TV weekly, seems like. The good guys have a photograph taken from a distance, and with a computer they can zoom into it indefinitely, until they're reading license plates from satellite photos and counting freckles from traffic cams. Yeah, sure, we totally buy that.

Not.

This (http://www.tpd.tno.nl/Pics/DII/gigazoom/Delft2.htm) is purportedly the highest-resolution photo now in existence. You can zoom in and read license plates. You also see people who have disappeared somewhat, presumably because they were in motion. Cool, huh?

Now we can put it in our novels without savvy readers rolling their eyes in disbelief. I thought we'd share it among ourselves before presenting it to the whole board.

Maryn, who's not writing anything at the moment that can use this

emeraldcite
12-29-2005, 04:40 AM
purportedly the highest-resolution photo now in existence

That civilians are allowed to see.

I think the golden rule for technology, at least in America, is that whatever you see, the military had it a decade or more before.

From what I understand, some of the higher tech satellites have quite striking resolution. You'd be surprised.

dantem42
01-06-2006, 07:07 AM
All suspense/thriller readers have come across this one--it's on TV weekly, seems like. The good guys have a photograph taken from a distance, and with a computer they can zoom into it indefinitely, until they're reading license plates from satellite photos and counting freckles from traffic cams. Yeah, sure, we totally buy that.

Not.



I've tangled with this stuff somewhat before in depth, so a few pointers. Most of the stuff you see depicted in movies and TV (shows such as The Agency) is quite real.

Low-orbiting military photo reconnaisance satellites of two decades ago were capable of differentiating one car model from another from an overhead view. Current technology can determine the brand of a pack of cigarettes lying on a picnic table.

To give some idea of what we're talking about, the optics package of a current generation military satellite costs in the area of $100 to $200 million, whereas the highest performance commercial telephoto lens is along the lines of $10,000.

But probably the biggest advance over two decades has been in the processing of raw satellite photo data. Algorithms can compensate for troublesome things like light refraction because of water vapor in the atmosphere. The enormous computing power required to handle these algorithms to resolve images wasn't available twenty years ago.

Satellites as far as I know can only supply fixed images, not moving pictures. When you see stuff where the black ops guys are storming an Al Qaeda camp from above and the image is shown in night vision infrared, this is done with aircraft platforms such as the venerable U2 as well as other newer ones such as Predator. These also have sophisticated optical sensor platforms, and in addition incredibly expensive gimbal mount systems to isolate the optics from things like the vibration of the aircraft.

The military maintains a very heavy security blanket over anything related to satellite optical recon. It carries the highest caveats in the security classification system, meaning that levels of control are extremely high. Because of this, we have only the slightest inkling of what the military is able to do these days in this area.