The LAGEOS I, Laser Geodynamics Satellite, was launched on May 4, 1976 from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. The two-foot diameter, 900-pound satellite orbited the Earth from pole to pole and measured the movements of the Earth’s surface relative to earthquakes, continental drift, and other geophysical phenomena.
The mirrored surface of the satellite precisely reflected laser beams from ground stations for accurate ranging measurements. Scientists at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. came up with the idea for the satellite and built it at the Marshall Center.
Without a doubt, this the most attractive satellite of all time.
Besides the moon.
The Mississippi River delta, as imaged by Japan’s Advanced Land Observing Satellite. As 17,000 cubic meters of water pump out every second, vegetation (here colored red) is fed by the rich sediment. The fractal nature of its branching is a natural property that emerges from finding the most efficient branch pattern to feed a large surface area.
Earth, you damn fine.
(via Unpopular Science)
What would an animated map of all the moisture in the world’s atmosphere at this moment look like?
Something like this (more at the link):
This is basically all of the water that could precipitate out of the air at any given moment.
Related: xkcd’s What If series asks what would happen if a rainstorm dropped all its water in one big drop.
Billions of years from now, when the Sun becomes a red giant, engulfing an already oceanless and molten Earth in a swirling plume of solar radiation, some of our oldest art may still be intact. They won’t be stone monuments or the Egyptian pyramids. It won’t be a styrofoam cup, although that would have been a good guess. It might be a geosynchronous satellite, though.
Trevor Paglen hopes so, anyway. He is launching a gold-plated disc of 100 terrestrial photos aboard the communications satellite EchoStar XVI in September.
At a certain distance from Earth (depending on position relative to the equator) an orbiting object will match the natural rotation of the Earth and appear to remain in the same position in the sky. Communications satellites often reside there, in order to shine down on a particular are of Earth full-time. It is thought that even if they go dark, the satellites could remain there forever due to the extremely low drag at their high altitudes.
Will interstellar travelers of the future find this orbiting artistic fossil? And will any of these images give them an idea of who put it up there?
But of course, the Voyager probe, soon to leave our Solar System, carries its own record full of Sagan-designed Earthly imagery, launched decades before and making it just a bit older.
Ok, one last eclipse photo before returning to our usual programming.
This was the view from the geostationary MTSAT satellite as yesterday’s annular eclipse moved across the Pacific. You can see the shadow of the Moon like a burn mark east of Japan as it moved toward North America!
The Blue Marble From
Almost 150,000,000 km Above Us NASA Terra’ Satellite
(via Earth View), which you should go play with.
EDIT: An earlier version of this post stated that this picture represented 150,000,000 km above the Earth. That would be the same as the distance from the Earth to the sun, and is silly. I should have noticed that, and it appears that it’s a flaw in the imaging program used to create the image from satellite data. Anyway, it’s still a nice look.