Just before the London Olympic Games came to a close earlier this week, a tiny European satellite snapped a farewell photo of the Olympic Park from space.
Orbiting Earth from nearly 450 miles (720 kilometers) away, the European Space Agency's (ESA) Proba-1 microsatellite took a picture of the area in east London where the athletic action was happening. The circular Olympic Stadium stands out in the photo, with Victoria Park to its west and Hackney Marsh to the northwest.
The microsatellite, which is less than 3.3 feet (1 meter) on each side, launched in October 2001 as an experimental mission. "Proba" stands for "Project for Onboard Autonomy," and the satellite's two cameras are indeed largely autonomous. Controllers just need to send up the coordinates of their target on the ground and the cameras will start taking pictures.
The image of London's Olympic Park, taken on Aug. 11, was captured by the satellite's High Resolution Camera, ESA officials said. This black and white digital camera incorporates a Cassegrain telescope miniaturized to fit aboard Proba-1 and it has a resolution of about 16 feet (5 meters).
This isn't the first time Proba-1 has spotted big events on the ground. Last September, it captured a photo of the annual Burning Man festival in the Nevada desert from space.