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Top 10 Earth observation stories of 2023

This year has been a whirlwind of captivating Earth observation stories and news, spanning from dramatic volcanic eruptions to powerful earthquakes to witnessing icebergs on the run. ESA revisits some of the most memorable stories from 2023.

Earth from Space

10) We celebrated 25 years of Copernicus

‘Europe’s eyes on Earth’ started in 1998 as an idea for an operational environmental monitoring programme. Twenty-five years later, Copernicus is in full swing. With seven Copernicus Sentinel satellites in orbit, along with the contributing missions, terabytes of free and open data and information services are provided daily to hundreds of thousands of users.

The data help address some of today’s key challenges such as diminishing polar ice, food security, rising sea levels, natural disasters and, of course, climate change.

To celebrate the anniversary, browse through some of the highlights brought to you by Copernicus.

9) We spotted smelly seaweed from space

Sargassum is a large brown seaweed that floats in masses along the ocean surface. It is an important habitat for marine species providing food refuge and breeding grounds. It also absorbs atmospheric carbon dioxide through photosynthesis and converts it into organic carbon. However, when tonnes of it collects along coastlines, it rots – emitting toxins like hydrogen sulphide which produces a pungent smell.

This year’s bloom spanned more than 8800 km from the shores of Africa to the Gulf of Mexico and weighed around 10 million tonnes – so large that it was visible from space. Images from Copernicus Sentinel-2 showed the Sargassum around 45 km off the west coast of Guadeloupe.

It was predicted to be the largest ever recorded, but then unexpectedly shrunk.


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