Herbal Earth: Spectacular Vegetation Views of Our Home Planet and the Natural World of Living Green Life

Earth’s Vegetation from Suomi NPP satellite. World map of vegetation data collected by the Suomi NPP satellite (National Polar-orbiting Partnership) in a partnership between NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Credit: NASA/NOAA
Photo and Video Gallery below[/caption]

Herbal Earth: that’s the title of a spectacular collection of vivid new views of the Earth’s vegetation captured over the past year by the Suomi NPP satellite.

NPP is short for National Polar-orbiting Partnership – an Earth science satellite partnership between NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Although it’s rather reminiscent of the manmade ‘World at Night’ – its actually the ‘Natural World of Living Green Life.’

The Suomi NPP satellite data were collected with the Visible-Infrared Imager/Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) instrument from April 2012 to April 2013 and used to generate this gallery of images and animations – released by NASA and NOAA on June 19.

Western Hemisphere -Vegetation on Our Planet. The darkest green areas are the lushest in vegetation, while the pale colors are sparse in vegetation cover either due to snow, drought, rock, or urban areas. Suomi NPP Satellite data from April 2012 to April 2013 was used to generate these images. Credit: NASA/NOAA
Western Hemisphere -Vegetation on Our Planet. The darkest green areas are the lushest in vegetation, while the pale colors are sparse in vegetation cover either due to snow, drought, rock, or urban areas. Suomi NPP Satellite data from April 2012 to April 2013 was used to generate these images. Credit: NASA/NOAA

Suomi NPP was launched on October 28, 2011 by a Delta II rocket and placed into a sun-synchronous orbit 824 km (512 miles) above the Earth. It orbits Earth about 14 times daily.

The VIIRS instrument measures vegetation changes over time by looking at changes in the visible and near-infrared light reflected by vegetation. The 22-band radiometer sensor can detect subtle differences in greenness.

Nile Delta: July 9-15, 2012.  Amidst the deserts of Egypt, the Nile River provides life-sustaining water to the region. Also visible are the urbanized areas of northern Egypt. Credit: NOAA/NASA
Nile Delta: July 9-15, 2012. Amidst the deserts of Egypt, the Nile River provides life-sustaining water to the region. Also visible are the urbanized areas of northern Egypt. Credit: NASA/NOAA

The data are incorporated into the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) which represents the photosynthetic potential of vegetation.

The NVDI measures and monitors plant growth, vegetation cover and biomass production from the Suomi NPP satellite information.

The Florida Everglades: March 18-24, 2013. The "river of grass" extending south of Lake Okeechobee shows clear signs of its modified state with areas of dense agriculture, urban sprawl and water conservation areas delineated by a series of waterways that crisscross Southern Florida.  Credit: NOAA/NASA
The Florida Everglades: March 18-24, 2013. The “river of grass” extending south of Lake Okeechobee shows clear signs of its modified state with areas of dense agriculture, urban sprawl and water conservation areas delineated by a series of waterways that crisscross Southern Florida. Credit: NASA/NOAA

A quarter of the Earth’s surface is covered by some green vegetation, the remainder is the blue ocean.

Video: Green- Vegetation on Our Planet (Tour of Earth)

And don’t forget to “Send Your Name to Mars” aboard NASA’s MAVEN orbiter- details here. Deadline Very Soon: July 1, 2013. Launch: Nov. 18, 2013

Ken Kremer

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Learn more about Earth, Mars, Curiosity, Opportunity, MAVEN, LADEE and NASA missions at Ken’s upcoming presentation

June 23: “Send your Name to Mars on MAVEN” and “CIBER Astro Sat, LADEE Lunar & Antares Rocket Launches from Virginia”; Rodeway Inn, Chincoteague, VA, 8 PM

Eastern Hemisphere -Vegetation on Our Planet. Credit: NASA/NOAA
Eastern Hemisphere -Vegetation on Our Planet. Credit: NASA/NOAA

The Black Marble: Stunning New Orbital Views of Earth at Night

This image of Asia and Australia at night is a composite assembled from data acquired by the Suomi NPP satellite in April and October 2012. Credit: NASA, NOAA, and the Department of Defense.

Two months of night-time imagery gathered by the Suomi NPP satellite have resulted in a stunning new look at Earth at night, appropriately nicknamed the Black Marble.

The nighttime views were made possible by the new satellite’s “day-night band” of the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite. VIIRS detects light in a range of wavelengths from green to near-infrared and uses filtering techniques to observe dim signals such as city lights, gas flares, auroras, wildfires, and reflected moonlight. In this case, auroras, fires, and other stray light have been removed to emphasize the city lights.

“This is not your father’s low light sensor!” said Steve Miller, senior research scientist and deputy director of the Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere (CIRA), Colorado State University, speaking at the American Geophysical Union conference this week.

See more views and a video presentation of the VIIRS data below:

The new satellite is providing a much higher resolution across a greater band of light than previous night-light gathering satellites.

Originally developed for meteorologists to be able to look at nighttime clouds, the VIIRS data is providing a wide variety of information. “We are getting as much mileage from these data sets as we can,” said Chris Elvidge, who leads the Earth Observation Group at NOAA’s National Geophysical Data Center.

Elvidge and Miller said the data is being used to model population distribution, fossil fuel and CO2 emissions, and other information that can be gleaned from nighttime lights such finding power outages, determining astronomical viewing conditions, providing site selection for astronomical observatories, and looking at impacts of artificial lights on humans and animals.

The difference between electrical lights and fires, and night glow and auroras can even be determined by VIIRS.

North and South America at night is a composite assembled from data acquired by the Suomi NPP satellite in April and October 2012. Credit: NASA, NOAA, and the Department of Defense.

Europe, Africa, and the Middle East at night is a composite assembled from data acquired by the Suomi NPP satellite in April and October 2012. Credit: NASA, NOAA, and the Department of Defense.

Named for satellite meteorology pioneer Verner Suomi, NPP flies over any given point on Earth’s surface twice each day at roughly 1:30 a.m. and p.m. The polar-orbiting satellite flies 824 kilometers (512 miles) above the surface, sending its data once per orbit to a ground station in Svalbard, Norway, and continuously to local direct broadcast users distributed around the world,
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See more imagery and get additional information about the night-time VIIRS Data at the NASA Earth Observatory website.

Blue Marble 2012: The Arctic Edition

This latest portrait of Earth from NASA’s Suomi NPP satellite puts the icy Arctic in the center, showing the ice and clouds that cover our planet’s northern pole. The image you see here was created from data acquired during fifteen orbits of Earth.

In January of this year Suomi NPP images of Earth were used to create an amazing “Blue Marble” image that spread like wildfire across the internet, becoming one of the latest “definitive” images of our planet. Subsequent images have been released by the team at Goddard Space Flight Center, each revealing a different perspective of Earth.

See a full-sized version of the image above here.

NASA launched the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System Preparatory Project (or NPP) on October 28, 2011 from Vandenberg Air Force Base. On Jan. 24, NPP was renamed Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership, or Suomi NPP, in honor of the late Verner E. Suomi. It’s the first satellite designed to collect data to improve short-term weather forecasts and increase understanding of long-term climate change.

Suomi NPP orbits the Earth about 14 times each day and observes nearly the entire surface of the planet.

Image credit: NASA/GSFC/Suomi NPP

 

NASA’s Blue Marble…Side B.

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In response to last week’s incredibly popular “Blue Marble” image, NASA and NOAA have released a companion version, this one showing part of our planet’s eastern hemisphere.

The image is a composite, made from six separate high-resolution scans taken on January 23 by NASA’s recently-renamed Suomi NPP satellite.

From the description on NASA Goddard Space Flight Center’s Flickr page:

Compiled by NASA Goddard scientist Norman Kuring, this image has the perspective of a viewer looking down from 7,918 miles (about 12,742 kilometers) above the Earth’s surface from a viewpoint of 10 degrees South by 45 degrees East. The four vertical lines of ‘haze’ visible in this image shows the reflection of sunlight off the ocean, or ‘glint,’ that VIIRS captured as it orbited the globe. Suomi NPP is the result of a partnership between NASA, NOAA and the Department of Defense.

Last week’s “Blue Marble” image is now one of the most-viewed images of all time on Flickr, receiving nearly 3.2 million views!

See the previously released image here.

NASA launched the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System Preparatory Project (or NPP) on October 28, 2011 from Vandenberg Air Force Base. On Jan. 24, NPP was renamed Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership, or Suomi NPP, in honor of the late Verner E. Suomi. It’s the first satellite designed to collect data to improve short-term weather forecasts and increase understanding of long-term climate change.

Image credit: NASA/NOAA

Added: check out a “zoomified” version of this image on John Williams’ StarryCritters site.

 

Blue Marble 2012: Amazing High Definition Image of Earth

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A new high-definition version of the ‘Blue Marble’ has been taken from the newest Earth observation satellite. The just-renamed Suomi NPP satellite took numerous images on January 4, 2012 and this composite image was created from several “swaths” of Earth. It is a stunningly beautiful look at our home planet, with the largest versions of the image showing about 1.6 km (1 mile) per pixel. This Sun-synchronous Earth-orbiting satellite is 824 kilometers (512 miles) above Earth, and it gets a complete view of our planet every day. It is the first of a new generation of satellites that will observe many facets of how our Earth may be changing.

Originally launched as the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System Preparatory Project (NPP), it was just renamed ‘Suomi NPP’ on to honor a pioneer in the use of satellites, the late Verner E. Suomi.

See below for an image showing these “swaths” from global images taken on November 24, 2011.

The Suomi NPP satellite gets a complete view of our planet every day. This image uses 20 orbital ‘swaths’ from November 24, 2011, and is the first complete global image from the VIIRS instrument. Credit: NASA Earth Observatory.

These images were taken with the The Visible/Infrared Imager Radiometer Suite or VIIRS instrument aboard Suomi NPP.

VIIRS images the surface in long wedges measuring 3,000 kilometers (1,900 miles) across. The swaths from each successive orbit overlap one another, so that at the end of the day, the sensor has a complete view of the globe. The Arctic is missing because it is too dark to view in visible light during the winter.

The NPP satellite was placed in a Sun-synchronous orbit, so its path takes the satellite over the equator at the same local (ground) time in every orbit. This orbit allows the satellite to maintain the same angle between the Earth and the Sun so that all images have similar lighting. This consistent angle is important because it allows scientists to compare images from year to year without worrying about extreme changes in shadows and lighting.

Suomi NPP is carrying five instruments on board, and the biggest and most important instrument is VIIRS.

Unfortunately, an anomaly has been discovered in the instrument. During the checkout phase after it launched in October 2011, engineers detected a larger than expected decrease in sensor sensitivity in four of VIIRS’s near-infrared and visible channels.

An analysis revealed an anomalous material on the surface of the mirror, and further investigation on the ground discovered a non-standard process that occurred during the mirror coating as a potential source of tungsten oxide contamination on the VIIRS mirrors. Tungsten oxides could cause the surface of the mirror to darken.

This evidence suggests that the cause of the contamination is limited to the VIIRS instrument, and is not a concern for other NPP instruments. Officials from NPP said that while this problem is likely irreversible, the darkening of the VIIRS mirror caused by the contamination is expected to reach a plateau and remain at that level for the life of the mission. Although testing on this issue is continuing, NPP mission managers expect this plateau to still provide sufficient margins to allow VIIRS to meet its design requirements.

Still, the images have been spectacular so far from Suomi NPP and we look forward to more high definition views of our Blue Marble.

See the complete set of images from this spacecraft on their Flickr site.

More info on the Suomi NPP