This is what the Ukrainian war looks like from space

We usually talk about the military technology used in the Ukrainian war: missiles, drones and even artificial intelligence at the service of war. But little is said about how it is used to reflect what is left behind, what happens after the attacks. To understand this, an international team of scientists, led by Sylvain Barbot, Teng Wang and Hang Xu (Earth science experts) has used different tools for show the traces of war from space.

Remote sensing, remote analysis, has allowed seismologists to document the high rate of shelling and artillery fire around kyiv during the first months of the war. For its part, the Barbot team, used open source and freely accessible data to ensure that all findings could be reproduced, ensuring transparency and neutrality.

For example, satellite sensors record electromagnetic waves reflected from the Earth's surface with wavelengths ranging from hundreds of nanometers to tens of centimeters, allowing semi-continuous monitoring on a global scale, without political or natural obstacles.

They also turned to optical images, the equivalent of photographs taken from space, to control troop movements on the front and the destruction of equipment and facilities. Although optical images are easily interpreted, they are not useful if it is cloudy or at night.

To counter these problems, radars on board satellites have also been used, the information of which is freely available. The European Space Agency has made such data available since the early 1990s. using the Sentinel-1 satellite radar. Thanks to this, two radar images taken over the same area can be used to detect changes in structures and other surfaces.

The spatial resolution of the Sentinel-1 radar 20 meters in a strip of 410 kiloeithermeters, combined with updates every 12 daysYoas, makes its radar data ideal for monitoring urban warfare. Thanks to this it has been possible to evaluate the daños in kyiv and Mariupol.

“We marked heavily damaged areas by comparing the coherence of the radar before and after the war – Barbot explains in an article -. Using this approach, we first analyzed the Battle of Bakhmut, one of the longest and bloodiest of the war, which began on October 8, 2022 and ended with a Russian victory on May 20, 2023. Quickly, we realized the horror of the situation. The only thing that survived after a year of battle was the road network from the city. “All the buildings had completely or partially collapsed due to the continuous shelling.”

Remote sensing imagery thus offers a means to safely monitor the impact of armed conflict, particularly as high-intensity wars proliferate in urban environments. Open access satellite instruments complement other forms of open source intelligence by offering unhindered access to unbiased, high-resolution information, which can help people understand the true impact of war on the ground.