urban sprawl from space

Istanbul from Space

TerraSAR-X, the German satellite, released its image of the month,  providing a detailed view of Istanbul from over 500 kilometres up. The image clearly shows the urban density and sprawl in the city. The figure below shows how the city developed over years with the construction of the first bridge on 1973 and second on 1988. Now that Istanbul is waiting for the third bridge to be built on the Northern most part of the city, together with the New City Project of the prime-minister, we can assume that the further development will take place on the Northern Axis, on the Green Istanbul.

The radar eyes of TerraSAR-X

“The airport can be seen to the west – the taxiways and runways reflect the radar signals away from the satellite, causing the asphalt surfaces to appear as black lines. There is dense housing where yellow is predominates. The construction of the Bosphorus bridges has been a primary driver for the growth of the city. The urbanisation snakes along the Bosphorus right down to the Black Sea. In the city itself, only a few areas remain undeveloped and are thus shown in green. This is the case on the headland where the Golden Horn, an inlet, extends into the European part. Having an exclusive panoramic view of the city and few neighbours, this is where the Topkapi Palace, the former residence and seat of government of the Sultans, is located. Even the ships that sail on the Sea of Marmara or the Bosphorus do not escape the ‘radar eyes’ of TerraSAR-X.”

“In Istanbul, the city landscape is very compartmentalised and extremely heterogeneous,” says Hannes Taubenböck of DLR’s German Remote Sensing Data Center (Deutsches Fernerkundungsdatenzentrum; DFD). ‘Urban sprawl’ is the name given to what happens around metropolises like Istanbul. “In the last 35 years, the area of Istanbul has tripled.”


TerraSAR-X is the first German satellite that has been manufactured under what is known as a Public-Private Partnership between the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) and Astrium GmbH in Friedrichshafen. The satellite travels around the Earth in a polar orbit and records unique, high-quality X-band radar data about the entire planet using its active antenna. TerraSAR-X works regardless of weather conditions, cloud cover or the absence of daylight and is able to provide radar data with a resolution down to one metre.

Credit: DLR – http://www.dlr.de/TerraSAR-X

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