Academy celebrates the value of science with satellite selfie

August 18, 2020
This message can be seen from space! While the satellite images will not be made available until after the final flyover, Monday’s action was captured by a drone flying a little closer to the ground.

The Academy has created a message that can be seen from space to highlight the important role of scientists as the world navigates the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

‘Science will solve this’ is being created during National Science Week as part of Inspiring the ACT’s ‘Satellite Selfie’. The message symbolises the Academy’s commitment to support the nation by providing the latest evidence from experts on COVID-19. In June, the Academy was named in the top 10 most prominent sources of information during the pandemic by the Australian Science Media Centre. Academy Fellows have been highly sought after for comment by the media.

Using a satellite 770 kilometres above Earth, the project has given the ACT, its surrounds and the Northern Territory the unusual opportunity to take part in a massive selfie. Three planned flyovers across the week give participants the best chance to have their creations captured by the satellite.

ANU astrophysicist Dr Brad Tucker said the images would form the “ultimate, out of this world, selfie”.

“Nothing to this scale and this many people has ever been tried before in the world, let alone Australia. We are going to use a satellite to take a massive selfie that shows what Canberra, its surrounds and the NT looked like in August 2020,” Dr Tucker said. 

The message symbolises the Academy’s commitment to support the nation by providing the latest evidence from experts on COVID-19.

Careful planning is required to make a design visible from that height. Each 50 cm square on the ground translates to a single pixel in the satellite image. ‘Science will solve this’ was calculated to require 276 pixels.

On the first flyover on Monday morning it took 105 towels spread across the sunny Shine Dome car park by 12 staff members to make the plan a reality. While the satellite images will not be made available until after the final flyover on Friday, Monday’s action was captured by a drone flying a little closer to the ground.

Other creative designs can be seen by searching for #SatelliteSelfie on social media.

A big thank you to Accor for lending us the towels needed to share this important message in an environmentally friendly way, and to Living Simply for supplying the rocks to hold them down.

© 2020 Australian Academy of Science

Top