"Earth as Art"

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What does this picture look like to you? Kind of like a closeup of a snowflake? Or some weird looking veins? Actually, it's picture of the Himalayas taken from a NASA satellite. 

NASA has just published a book called "Earth as Art," containing pictures taken from the satellites, Landsat 5 and 7, Terra, Aqua, and Earth Observing-1 (EO-1). These pictures were able to be produced through something called remote sensing.

Remote sensing is a way to acquire information about something without actually touching the object and is an umbrella that includes things like Doppler radars, lasers, and light and detection ranging (LIDAR). 

These remote sensors can be either passive, meaning they respond to external stimuli, or active, meaning the sensors use internal stimuli to collect data about Earth. Passive sensors use the sunlight reflected from the surface of the Earth to record radiation. Active sensors measure the time a laser takes to project onto the Earth's surface and then reflect back to the sensor. The images produced from remote sensing technology, like in the Earth as Art publication, aren't observed from the naked eye and are a great tool for analyzing areas from a distance away, an example of this being mapping world forests and keeping track of climate change, as NASA does in Brazil. These sensors can also be applied to be used in different fields. 

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration lists uses of remote sensoring, things like monitoring shoreline changes, monitoring ocean circulation and wave weights, tracking hurricanes, monitoring and mapping land use, wetlands and wildlife habitats. 

Some of these photos published can be found and appreciated here: http://www.popsci.com/science/gallery/2012-12/19-photos-earth-art



1 Comment

These pictures are quote beautiful. I had the pleasure of going to the Great Wall of China in 2009; what a great experience to be on top of something that can be seen from space!

I was able to find a really good textbook excerpt on remote sensing here: http://www.mhprofessional.com/downloads/products/0071740112/0071740112_ch01.pdf

Like your post, it defines remote sensing really well and then goes into other details and topics related to it. One of the things that the book points out (which I think is helpful in understanding the concept) is that remote sensing is similar in how we use our eyes. Our eyes are our body's own remote sensor. However, the remote sensor technology like what you're describing can pick up on both visible and non-visible light. Our eyes can obviously see only the visible light.

It also points out the differences between remote sensor camera and the types of cameras we use. It says that remote sensor cameras are different in that they provide a "bird's eye view" of the Earth rather than our side shots down here on the Earth's surface. The fact that the remote sensor cameras also travel in an orbital path makes understanding and interpreting the pictures easier and more predictable.

It also talks about how the sensors can show us change over time on the Earth's surface, like with vegetation growth and impending weather. It's how we were able to see Hurricane Sandy move up the coast and toward NYC. Check out this picture, it's pretty crazy looking at the sheer magnitude of the storm: http://images.businessweek.com/images/images/lede/12/350x230/1029_SR_SANDY.jpg

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