ASTER is one of the five state-of-the-art instrument sensor systems on-board Terra a satellite launched in December 1999. It was built by a consortium of Japanese government, industry, and research groups. ASTER monitors cloud cover, glaciers, land temperature, land use, natural disasters, sea ice, snow cover and vegetation patterns at a spatial resolution of 90 to 15 meters. The multispectral images obtained from this sensor have 14 different colors, which allow scientists to interpret wavelengths that cannot be seen by the human eye, such as near infrared, short wave infrared and thermal infrared.
ASTER is the only high spatial resolution instrument on Terra that is important for change detection, calibration and/or validation, and land surface studies. ASTER data is expected to contribute to a wide array of global change-related application areas, including vegetation and ecosystem dynamics, hazard monitoring, geology and soils, land surface climatology, hydrology, land cover change, and the generation of digital elevation models (DEMs). Satellite Imaging Corporation (SIC) is an official distributor for ASTER Imagery through USGS.