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Best Satellite Pictures: Winning "Earth as Art" Shots From NASA

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Christiana Hanaman
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« on: September 03, 2012, 12:01:29 am »

Best Satellite Pictures: Winning "Earth as Art" Shots From NASA




First Place: "Van Gogh From Space"

Image courtesy EROS/USGS/NASA

A satellite image of green phytoplankton swirling around the Swedish island of Gotland (map) echoes Van Gogh's "Starry Night." The Baltic Sea view was voted the best picture from NASA's Landsat program, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this week.

Acquired by the  Landsat 7 satellite on July 13, 2005, the image was among five winners of a joint U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)/NASA competition called "Earth as Art."

The agencies have previously chosen particularly artistic Landsat pictures—normally used for scientific research—for the "Earth as Art" collections. But in 2012 the public made the decision, with more than 14,000 Web users voting for their favorites.

Pictures intended for the "Earth as Art" series are colored and tweaked for aesthetics by volunteers at the USGS Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where Landsat data are processed.

"All of us who work with these things regularly are struck every now and then by the aesthetic value of some of the images," said the USGS's Ron Beck.

(Related pictures: "Twenty Stunning Shots of Earth From Space.")

—Brian Handwerk

Published July 25, 2012

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2012/07/pictures/120724-satellite-space-pictures-nasa-40th-anniversary-landsat-earth-science/
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Christiana Hanaman
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« Reply #1 on: September 03, 2012, 12:02:55 am »



Second Place: "Yukon Delta"

Image courtesy EROS/USGS/NASA

The Yukon River Delta, one of the world's largest, looks like a sinewy organ in a 2002 picture. The river begins in the Canadian province of British Columbia and crosses through the Yukon Territory and Alaska before emptying into the Being Sea.

The "Earth as Art" competition was timed to celebrate the Landsat program's 40th anniversary on Monday.

The longest-running Earth-observation satellite program in the world, Landsat has two spacecraft—Landsat 5 and Landsat 7—currently in orbit.

"We wanted to bring attention to the imagery for sure, but our target was also middle and high school kids—to get them thinking about what they were seeing," USGS's Beck explained.

For example, in the Yukon Delta image, "kids [invariably] say, Why are those lines like that? When you explain that they are streams emptying into the sea, they say, Well why does that happen?" Beck said.

"Soon they are talking about hydrology and geology and vegetation cover, and that was really our strategy: to get their attention and then to go from there and learn some science. So far it has worked beautifully."

(See "Satellite Pictures: 'Magnificent' Views of Earth.")

Published July 25, 2012
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Christiana Hanaman
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« Reply #2 on: September 03, 2012, 12:03:32 am »




Third Place: "Meandering Mississippi"

Image courtesy EROS/USGS/NASA

A turquoise ribbon, the mighty Mississippi swirls and whirls its way along the Arkansas-Mississippi border in 2003.

The picture details the river's cutoffs and oxbow lakes, which dot a patchwork landscape of farms and towns south of Memphis, Tennessee.

Landsat 7, which took the image, has been orbiting Earth at an altitude of about 440 miles (700 kilometers) since 1999.

The instrument creates images by detecting emitted and reflected electromagnetic radiation and recording it in seven different wavelengths, including visible light and infrared.

These views can be combined to create images with important, nonvisual information about water, rocks, and other earthly objects.

"When we use the near-infrared wavelength, for example, we can see subtle changes in vegetation that the human eye would not detect," Beck said.

(Related: "The Best Pictures of Earth: Reader Picks of NASA Shots.")

Published July 25, 2012
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Christiana Hanaman
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« Reply #3 on: September 03, 2012, 12:04:21 am »




Fourth Place: "Algerian Abstract"

Image courtesy EROS/USGS/NASA

Long yellow tendrils—enormous ridges of windblown sand—cross a Saharan sand sea called Erg Iguidi in a 1985 Landsat picture.

Extending through parts of Algeria and Mauritania, Erg Iguidi is home to giant dunes that can reach a third of a mile (about 500 meters) in both length and height.

While Landsat images can amaze the eye, they're primarily used for scientific endeavors.

For instance, the images help experts monitor water quality, track the movement of sea ice and glaciers, map land-use change and deforestation rates, and aid agricultural development or urban planning.

And when a disaster strikes—such as a fire, flood, or tsunami—the images can be employed to assess damage and aid disaster-relief efforts, as well as to aid in disaster-prevention efforts.

(See related aerial pictures of mysterious patterns in nature.)

Published July 25, 2012
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Christiana Hanaman
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« Reply #4 on: September 03, 2012, 12:05:05 am »



Fifth Place: "Lake Eyre"

Image courtesy EROS/USGS/NASA

Patchwork pieces of partially dry Lake Eyre appear as a ghostly face in a 2006 Landsat picture.

The southern Australian lake is an ephemeral feature that ebbs and flows with the seasons and the years. It's the country's largest lake when completely full—but that's only happened three times in the past 150 years.

Over 40 years the Landsat system's six satellites have produced a staggering catalog of images that are available online at no cost, Beck noted.

"We've collected close to four million scenes in the U.S. archive, and the dozen international ground stations have collected close to another four million scenes," Beck said.

And it keeps growing: Landsat 8 will push the mission even further when launched in February 2013.

(Read "Australia's Dry Run" in National Geographic magazine.)

Published July 25, 2012
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Christiana Hanaman
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« Reply #5 on: September 03, 2012, 12:05:43 am »




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