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Fact check: Can Satellites see through walls?

2 Mins read

In 1986, a popular Nigerian journalist was killed through the delivery of what is called a “letter bomb.” With every resources thrown at the case, it still remains one of the unsolved murder mysteries in the country.

While listening to a talk show on unsolved crimes in Nigeria, a caller told the anchor that the government can solve homicide cases of Dele Giwa and Chief Bola Ige.

The caller added that all the government had to do was ask the US government to produce satellite recording of the particular day.

This brought the question of whether or not satellites are able to see the content of a building.

The first satellite was launched into orbit in 1957, marking the beginning of the evolution of space technology. Right now, space is littered with thousands of satellites owned by both government and private bodies.

These satellites are used for different reasons, from communication to GPS, environmental monitoring, and more.

Satellites are placed in orbit to gather information, and these information include images and street routes. In the process of gathering these pictorial information, would it be possible for the satellites to get a picture of you taking a dump in your Gucci toilet?

The straight answer is not so straight. Kidding, it’s a NO.

However, with the revolution going on in satellite technology, there are satellites that can see through lightweight objects like carport or hangars, but, not through structures like buildings and concrete walls.

Also, due to the size of mirrors on the satellite, it would be difficult for them to clearly view a person’s face. The human face, would appear only as a little pixel.

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Last year, Capella Space launched a satellite capable of taking clear radar images of anywhere in the world, with incredible resolution. The satellite uses synthetic aperture radar (SAR), which works similarly to how dolphins and bats navigate using echolocation.

The satellite beams down a powerful 9.65 GHz radio signal toward its target, and then collects and interprets the signal as it bounces back up into orbit. With this, the satellite is able to see through clouds, smokes, moisture, and fogs.

While we have established that satellites are unable to take images within walls, it should be known that using infrared and thermographic imaging technology, it is possible for a satellite to discover movement and activities happening in a building.

Satellites with the right technology can however, connect to cameras within the building to take images. In this case, the satellite is not the one taking images from the sky.

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When I'm not reading about tech, I'm writing about it, or thinking about the next weird food combinations to try. I do all these with my headphones plugged in, and a sticky note on my computer with the words: "The galaxy needs saving, Star Lord."
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