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There are several excellent sources of images and information about efforts to learn more of the realm beyond Earth reaching out into space. There are also important efforts to look inward toward Earth from space. One could argue that this is the more important mission. Long term and detailed analysis of Earth and the changes we are seeing are essential to our understanding of the future. These changes impact us all. The looks toward Earth come from many sources. An astronaut aboard the International Space Station acquired this image on September 3, 2012. It was presented as an Image of the Day for NASA Earth Observatory. It is a view looking west in Idaho. North is to the right. Click the image for a much larger detailed view.

Astronauts routinely image Earth. Examples of their work can be viewed at the Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth.

The image above shows fires burning in the forested region of central Idaho. At night,  the cooled atmosphere causes cooler, denser air to drain down into the valleys. This effect is easily seen in this image. Yellow and tan areas at the top left and right are grasslands. Many light green areas in the valleys are agricultural crops of barley, alfalfa, and wheat. Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness is the largest single wilderness area in the contiguous United States. It takes up most of the area in the middle of the picture.

The mission of Earth Observatory is to publicize the information about climate and the environment coming from NASA satellite missions, field research, and climate models.
Support comes from the Climate and Radiation Laboratory, and the Hydrospheric and Biospheric Sciences Laboratory located at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.
The science and research produces beautiful images and graphics to support the stories.

The site offers weekly email updates that provide links to the new images and stories of the previous week. You can subscribe to these weekly email notices here.

Join me below for more views of Earth...

I wrote a diary a year ago about Picture of the Day web sites. It was a sampling of a few sites that I felt were noteworthy. Much of the content in todays diary appeared the day after the romney 47% video release. It got buried. I reworked it for this version with hopes the important Earth studies noted in this site would get some more attention. Thanks for staying with me if you felt like you've seen this diary before.

Missions Involved with Earth Observatory

Earth Observatory is part of the Earth Observing System (EOS) at Goddard. The link shows nine current missions, one future mission, and fourteen retired completed missions. EOS consists of polar-orbiting and low inclination satellites. They provide long-term global observations of the land surface, biosphere, solid Earth, atmosphere, and oceans. EOS views the Earth as an integrated system. Their goal is to bring information and resources to scientists and the general public alike.

For the public, the most striking information is often in images and graphics. The stories tell of the challenges we face on Earth to maintain our climate and environment and make it last for future generations. The impacts upon Earth come in many forms.
  • We see populations encroaching on the surrounding environment.
  • Carbon dioxide brings about warming and related changes to weather.
  • Natural events like volcanoes and hurricanes impact the planet.
  • And others...

Here is a sampling.


Raging Fires in Russia


Click each picture for the full story.
The summer of 2012 has proven to be the most severe wildfire season Russia has faced in a decade. Unlike 2010, when severe fires raged in western Russia, most of the fires in 2012 have burned through taiga in remote parts of eastern and central Siberia.



Pine Bark Beetles in Colorado

In Colorado, severe beetle infestations showed up in lodgepole pine forests about 50 miles west of Boulder and Fort Collins around 2000. Over time, the affected area grew so that by 2011 the infestation had spread east to ponderosa pine forests that were much closer to the two cities. The beetle epidemic caused so many trees to die-off that the impacts are visible from space. The Thematic Mapper on Landsat 5 acquired these images of lodgepole pine forests near Grand Lake, Colorado on September 11, 2005, and September 28, 2011—before and after a severe infestation led to die-off of the tree canopy.
A feature of this story, and many others, is called View Image Comparison. Follow the linked image below. Just after the second image is a button for image comparison. Many of the Earth Observatory stories have before and after comparisons.



Kuwait City at Night


Cities are the focus of many images and stories on the site. Our cities impact Earth in many different ways. The images are meant to highlight those impacts we humans have on the environment. An enlarged version of this image is here. Click the image below for the text of the story.
Seen at night, Kuwait City contrasts dramatically with the dark surface of the Persian Gulf and the sparsely populated desert. Night views also show some aspects of urban geography that are difficult to perceive in daylight images. Here the focus of radial traffic arteries and “ring roads” guide the eye toward the financial center of Kuwait’s capital—on the cape extending into Kuwait Bay, north of the First Ring Road. The numbering of the ring roads shows the progressive southward development of the city towards the Seventh Ring Road, which still lies outside the built-up area.



Meeting of the Waters in Brazil


Coffee-colored water runs from the Andes on the Rio Solimões. Black water from Colombia and interior jungles is colored by decayed plant matter. It is the Rio Negro. The two rivers join near Manaus, Brazil. They flow beside each other for several kilometers. They eventually mix to become the Lower Amazon River. The enlarged version is especially detailed and worth a view.
“Six Mississippis’ worth of cafe-au-lait-colored water are converging here with two Mississippis’ worth of black-tea-colored water to produce the greatest hydrologic spectacle on the planet,” said Robert Meade, who spent decades studying rivers for the U.S. Geological Survey. “Put in terms of the sheer quantities of water, what we are seeing here is a volume of water at least a dozen times greater than the total of the water falling over the Niagara, Iguassu, and Victoria Falls combined.”



Van Allen Radiation Belts


Of special interest to me was this image and story of the Van Allen Radiation Belts. They were discovered early in the space age by Iowa native James Van Allen. He was instrumental in their discovery and analysis with the launch of the first American satellite Explorer I. Enlarged image view.
Fifty-four years later, NASA has embarked on a missions designed specifically to understand the space weather in the dynamic and erratic Van Allen Belts. At 4:05 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time on August 30, 2012, the Radiation Belt Storm Probes (RBSP) were launched into orbit on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket that lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.



Blogs at Earth Observatory


Lastly, a section of the site with additional rich content is the Blog section. In it you will find discussions and more in-depth presentations by some of the participating scientists on such areas as Earth Matters, Notes From the Field, Climate Q & A, and Elegant Figures on data visualizations. For anyone with special interest in the Earth, its climate, and the scientific efforts conducted to study them, this section is excellent. The entire site is becoming an essential one for me. As much as I like to visit the Astronomy Picture of the Day for a look outward, I am learning much by this look inward to our home planet Earth.

Originally posted to SciTech on Tue Oct 09, 2012 at 07:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by J Town, Astro Kos, and Community Spotlight.

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