Scientists Ready to Take Satellite Snapshot of Sanctuaries

A High-flying Camera
Every 98 minutes the satellite zips around the world. It's 438 miles above the Earth and traveling 17,000 miles per hour. On board is one of the world's most powerful cameras. Any day, between now and mid-March, the camera will take a snapshot of Mexico's monarch butterfly Reserve. The image will be so detailed it may even show the monarch colonies.

Preparing to Look at Monarch Habitat
Last week, we saw how scientists measure the monarch colonies in Mexico. This week's news is about a way scientists are preparing to study the monarch's habitat. The goal in each case, whether measuring monarch colonies or looking at monarch habitat, is to learn if monarchs are getting the protection they need.

Watching for Changes in the Forest
Monarchs need a healthy forest to survive the winter in Mexico. Scientists are concerned about deforestation (the clearing of a forest by people).

"We will have an all-time, historical archive of the current state of the monarch butterfly Reserve. We will be able to use these images to monitor the state of the Reserve through time," explained Dr. Lincoln Brower.

Who's Making This Possible? (Students!)
Last fall, over 500 classrooms sent nearly $10,000 to support monarch butterfly conservation in Mexico. These funds will be used to purchase the satellite image. We selected this project because the images will have permanent value for science and conservation. Students will always know that these 2009 images were made possible through their own generosity.

Waiting For a Clear Sky
The camera needs a cloudless sky to take the image. That's why it's scheduled now, during the last month of Mexico's dry season, when there is little moisture in the air to form clouds. While we wait, you can check the sky above the monarch sanctuary region on this satellite image.

Take a Look!
Do you see any clouds above the monarch sanctuaries right now? >>

SSEC, University of Wisconsin

A GEOEye satellite is carrying the camera.
It can take a detailed image while 438 miles above the Earth and moving 17,000 miles per hour. (More...)

Dr. Lincoln Brower ordered the image with his colleague at NASA, Dan Slayback. (More...)
Photo by Don Davis

Section of the Monarch Butterfly Reserve in Mexico

The area outlined in blue will be included in the satellite image. More...