Satellite engineers know what every photographer knows: get close to your subject to get better pictures. Not just visible light pictures, but all across the spectrum. The lower altitude also improves things like radar, lidar, communications, and gps.
But when your subject is Earth, and Earth is surrounded by an atmosphere, getting closer is a delicate dance with physics. The closer a satellite gets to Earth, the more atmospheric drag it encounters. And that can mean an unscheduled plummet to destruction for Earth-Observing (EO) satellites.
Continue reading “Earth Observation Satellites Could be Flown Much Lower than Current Altitudes and Do Better Science”
One under-appreciated space asset is the photography skills of the Russian cosmonauts on board the International Space Station. They are extremely skillful photographers who don’t get the same recognition as their astronaut counterparts in their Earth observation skills. In particular, they have taken some stunning high-oblique shots of objects close to the horizon, with almost an 3-D effect.
Continue reading “Mount Everest, Seen from Space!”
One day, my Grade Nine science class got way more interesting.
Suddenly, volcanoes weren’t just something in textbooks. Though I was in neighbouring British Columbia when Mt. St. Helens erupted, there was still a layer of ash on our cars and everything else. For a teenager with a burgeoning interest in science, it was awesome.
Continue reading “40 Years Ago, Mount St. Helens Blew its Top Off”
Rejoice! If you’ve missed your daily fix of seeing views of our rotating Earth from space, NOAA announced that its Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) is now back in action. The deep space satellite, which produces incredible full-disk images of our Blue Marble, has been offline since June 27, 2019 because of a problem with the spacecraft’s attitude control system. But NOAA and NASA engineers developed and uploaded a software patch to restore DSCOVR’s operations.
Continue reading “Phew, Earth-Watching DSCOVR is Operational Again”
A surtseyan eruption is a volcanic eruption in shallow water. It’s named after the island Surtsey, off the coast of iceland. In 2015, a surtseyan eruption in the Tongan Archipelago created the island Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha‘apai. Despite the odds, that island is still there almost five years later.
Continue reading “A Brand New Island in the Pacific has Survived 5 Years”
As global warming ramps up, expect to see Greenland in the news a lot. That’s because its ice sheet is under threat of melting. But that’s not the only reason. The other reason is fire.
Continue reading “There’s A Fire in Greenland… Again. It’s 10 Degrees Hotter Than Normal”
The rate at which Greenland is losing its ice is accelerating. This unsurprising conclusion comes from a new study based on 25 years of satellite data from the European Space Agency. The new study was published in Earth and Planetary Science Letters.
Continue reading “Ice loss in Greenland is Accelerating”
Nothing lasts forever, especially an iceberg drifting away from its frigid home. This coffin-shaped iceberg was spotted by astronauts on the International Space Station as it drifted northwards. It split off from a much larger iceberg about 18 years ago, and is moving into warmer and warmer waters.
Continue reading “This is What Icebergs Look Like at the End of Their Lives. This One’s 18 Years Old”
Arctic sea ice is getting thinner and younger. Satellite data and sonar records from submarines show how the ice coverage in the north is getting more and more seasonal. In the past, ice would build up year over year, getting thicker and stronger. But seasonal ice disappears each summer, meaning more open ocean in the summer, and less of the Sun’s energy being reflected back into space.
Continue reading “You’ve Got to Watch this Stunning NASA Video of Arctic Sea Ice. Now at its Lowest Levels”
Stand outside and take deep breath. Do you know what you’re breathing? For most people, the answer is simple – air. And air, which is essential to life as we know it, is composed of roughly twenty-percent oxygen gas (O²) and seventy-eight percent nitrogen gas (N²). However, within the remaining one-percent and change are several other trace gases, as well as few other ingredients that are not always healthy.
Continue reading “Look at all the Aerosols Pushed into the Atmosphere, from Fires, Volcanoes and Pollution. Even Sea Salt Thrown into the Air from Hurricanes”