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Finding renewable energy sources with data from the International Space Station

According to UT-researcher Dr Chris Hecker (Faculty of ITC), a single sensor on the International Space Station can aid in the search for new geothermal fields. His research project has been awarded funding by the Dutch Research Council (NWO) to test a novel approach for mapping small temperature variations at the Earth’s surface.

Geothermal fields are essential in the global transition to renewable energy sources and can be found by using satellites to map small temperature variations at the Earth’s surface. However, most satellites come with limitations. Their resolution is too low or they pass the area at the wrong time. “The international space station will pass over a different part of the world and at a different time of the day for every orbit”, says Chris.


The sensor at the ISS – named ECOSTRESS – has a much higher resolution than comparable sensors that measure heat from satellites. ECOSTRESS was designed to measure evaporative plant stress. Part of the research project is to find out whether it can also be used for finding small temperature variations at the Earth’s surface. “We propose to use the data NASA already gathers with ECOSTRESS in a new and innovative way”, says Chris, “Results from our study will help with decisions on future mission concepts.”

More information

Dr Chris Hecker is Assistant Professor Geological Remote Sensing for the Department of Earth Systems Analysis (faculty of ITC). He is also a member of the NASA ECOSTRESS Science and Application Team, where he works to discover new insights for the entire ECOSTRESS user community.

Project information

Title: Geothermal hotspot detection from Space Station-based ECOSTRESS data (GeoHot)

Main applicant: Dr Chris Hecker (Faculty of ITC)

Involved UT-researcher: Dr Thomas Groen (Faculty of ITC)

Other involved researchers: Dr Robert Hewson (Independent researcher, Australia), Robert Reeves (Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences (GNS), New Zealand), Eunice Bonyo (Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KenGen), Kenya)

K.W. Wesselink MSc (Kees)
Science Communication Officer (available Mon-Fri)