Main content

Counting Birds from Space

Individual albatrosses monitored from satellites. Also recording insect flight in very slow motion and a rundown of the Cassini –Huygens mission to Saturn.

For the first time conservationists can monitor and count birds from space. Using the next-generation Earth observation satellites, scientists count Northern Royal Albatrosses on their breeding grounds on the remote Chatham Islands, off New Zealand. Many of these large, majestic seabirds are threatened, not least by long-line fishing. But they are rarely on land, and often nest in difficult to get to places. But because they’re big and white, high-resolution satellite images can spot them.

Insect Flight
With wings that flap up to 600 times per second, watching the precise movements of mosquitos in flight is impossible for the human eye. Somehow, these and other tiny insects are able to fly through the heavy turbulence of wind and rain. Research out this month has uncovered unexpected aerodynamic techniques that keep the miniscule creatures airborne, the understanding of which can aid the development of smaller and better drone technology. But how do you film a 4mm mosquito’s individual wing beats in slow motion?

Cassini Reveals Saturn’s Secrets
20 years ago the Cassini-Huygens mission set off to Saturn, the gas giant with its iconic rings. Since its arrival in 2004, Saturn, its moons and its rings have been revealing their secrets to NASA-ESA’s ‘Discovery Machine’ which bristles with instruments and scientific equipment. Among the main discoveries are ice-plumes erupting from the moon Enceladus, and the identification of rain, rivers, lakes and oceans on the Earth-like Titan. From its launch to its bitter-sweet grand finale, the Cassini-Huygens mission will have racked up a remarkable list of achievements.

Image: Northern Royal Albatrosses, credit: Paul Scofield

Presenter: Bobbie Lakhera
Producer: Fiona Roberts

Available now

27 minutes

Broadcasts