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  • Satellite images are an excellent way to support and practise the science capabilities ‘Gather and interpret data’ and ‘Interpret representations’. The images are often vibrant and beautiful as they are but contain rich and valuable information for those who know how to find and interpret it.

    The activity contains a number of ready-to-use images from NASA’s Visible Earth website. To encourage local curriculum learning, use this curation of New Zealand images to find images of interest for your local area.

    In this activity, students are introduced to strategies and skills that scientists use to interpret satellite images. They use the skills to identify, discuss and interpret information from a selection of satellite images. The activity begins with simple strategies that support early learners and build in complexity.

    By the end of this activity, students should be able to:

    • observe images and make inferences about what they see
    • use strategies including colour and prior knowledge to support their inferences
    • build upon and combine strategies while observing images
    • consider and discuss what the representations show and how the information is presented.

    Download the Word file (see link below).

    Related content

    These articles provide more information about remote sensing and profile innovative New Zealand businesses working in this area:

    Satellite sensing discusses the advantages and disadvantages of using satellites to gather data.

    Activity ideas

    The images in this activity were created by Earth observation satellites. The Build a satellite interactive presents scenarios for students to consider and then build satellites to collect specific data. The activity includes opportunities to interpret data for finding dark vessels, monitoring albatross and tracking slow slip earthquakes.

    Interpreting representations using climate data also encourages students to think about data and how it is presented.

    Useful links

    NASA’s Visible Earth website has satellite images from around the globe. Use this curation of New Zealand images to find images of interest for your local area. Use the download button to display the image in full detail. Click on an area of the image to enlarge it for more detailed viewing.

    The images used in this activity come from the following Visible Earth articles:

    Visit these websites to gain an understanding of lake colour and ocean colour, as depicted in satellite images.

    This false-colour image uses infrared light to show icebergs created by the 2011 Canterbury earthquake.

    Use NASA’s Exploring remote sensing activity to simulate the recording of data from different ground coverings. It is part of NASA’s electromagnetic spectrum series.


    This resource has been produced with funding from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and the support of the New Zealand Space Agency.

      Published 25 July 2022 Referencing Hub articles
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