Need a vacation? Paradise is as close as a mouse click away, thanks to a new fly-around tour of the island of O’ahu, Hawai’i. The trip comes courtesy of the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) instrument on NASA’s Terra spacecraft.
Sometimes called “The Gathering Place,” O’ahu is the third largest of the Hawaiian Islands and home to the state’s capital city, Honolulu. The island has nearly a million residents—about 75 percent of the state’s population. Erosion and volcanism give the island its unique shape. O’ahu was created from two separate shield volcanoes—Wai’anae and Ko’olau—that are connected by a central valley, the O’ahu Plain.
Your virtual tour begins over Honolulu, then moves northwest over the O’ahu Plain, looking towards the northeast and the Ko’olau mountains. The valley was once largely agricultural, producing pineapple and sugar cane. Reaching the north shore, site of world-famous surfing locations like the Banzai Pipeline, we turn to the southeast and view the Windward and East Sides of O’ahu. Here you’ll find Kane’ohe and Kailua Bays and numerous small offshore islands. Reaching the southeast tip of Oahu, we fly over Hanauma Bay, a protected snorkeling and diving location, and continue past Diamond Head crater, Waikiki Beach and Honolulu. The trip ends with a flyover of Pearl Harbor, home to the largest U.S. Navy fleet in the Pacific.
This flyover was created by draping ASTER image data—acquired January 13, 2010—over the new ASTER Version 2 digital elevation data. ASTER carries two telescopes used to record light reflected by the Earth. The telescopes, says ASTER science team leader Mike Abrams, are like two human eyes—seeing the world from two different angles, but combining for a three-dimensional view. Scientists used the differences between the two records to determine the ground elevation.