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Monday, November 1, 1999 Published at 16:48 GMT


Eye over the Amazon

The jungle around the Rio Jurua

By BBC News Online Science Editor Dr David Whitehouse

The Brazilian Ministry of Science and Technology has released the first image taken from the joint China-Brazil earth monitoring satellite, CBERS-1.

Its wide-field camera shows a portion of the Amazon rain forest some 300 by 300 km (186 miles by 186 miles).

The image was obtained on 21 October and shows the jungle around the Rio Jurua, a tributary of the Amazon.

Brazilian scientists hope that CBERS-1 will make a significant contribution to environmental monitoring in the Amazon region which is under pressure from fires and deforestation.

When it is not observing Brazil, the satellite will be looking at China. Eventually, it is hoped that the satellite will take images of other countries for fee-paying customers.

[ image: Busy times for the Brazilian space effort]
Busy times for the Brazilian space effort

CBERS-1 was launched on 14 October by a Chinese Long March 4-B rocket, along with another satellite called SACI-1.

Unfortunately, engineers were not been able to establish contact with SACI-1 after launch.

With Nasa's help, Brazilian engineers did locate it and now believe that it did reach its proper orbit but that it failed to deploy its solar panels properly.

Rescuing the satellite will take several months as its batteries have been completely drained. Only a tiny amount of sunlight can fall on the still-folded solar panels so charging the batteries up again will take a long time.

These are busy times for the Brazilian space effort. It hopes to launch SACI-2 later this month.

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