Posts Tagged ‘nasa’

MoonZoo – Heads Up, Citizen Scientists: The Moon Needs You! (NPR)

Monday, May 24th, 2010

moon1

[Editor’s note: Crowd sourcing “id that crater”. Check out my post, Race To The Moon with Richard Furno for the original effort 40 years ago to map the moon.]

Republished from National Public Radio.

We’re seeing the most detailed images of the moon’s surface ever captured from afar — thanks to NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO. The space probe carries a super-powerful camera, which photographs every bit of the moon’s surface for scientists to examine.

Only one problem: The LRO is doing such a good job that the scientists can’t keep up.

Enter Oxford astrophysicist Chris Lintott. He’s asking amateur astronomers to help review, measure and classify tens of thousands of moon photos streaming to Earth. He has set up the website MoonZoo.org, where anyone can log on, get trained and become a space explorer.

“We need anybody and everybody,” Lintott tells NPR’s Guy Raz on Weekend All Things Considered.

For example, “we ask people to count the craters that they can see … and that tells us all sorts of things about the history and the age of that bit of surface,” Lintott explains.

Continue reading at NPR . . .

40th Lunar Anniversary with Richard Furno and the National Geographic “Moon Map”

Friday, July 17th, 2009

skyimage_2035_82638162

This week marks the 40th anniversary of the first human landing on Earth’s Moon, over 250,000 miles distant from our “mother ship”. Apollo 11 was launched into space July 16, 1969 and on July 20th Neil Alden Armstrong and Edwin Eugene ‘Buzz’ Aldrin, Jr., became the first humans to “moon walk” while fellow crew member Michael Collins orbited above.

This past January I published several blog posts (listed below) highlighting my friend Richard Furno’s involvement with the National Geographic “The Earth’ Moon” map which was published during this amazing time in history. Follow along with Richard’s first hand narration of how historic events shaped the map, the cutting edge science involved in assembling the photographic base material, and the many explanatory notes included on the final design. The wall map is a piece of art, please enjoy :)

Race To The Moon with Richard Furno, Part 1
Race To The Moon with Richard Furno, Part 2
Meet Richard Furno
View map online from National Geographic

NASA and the President John F. Kennedy Library have a fun (historic) real time recreation / interactive of the four day mission.

New Global 30m DEM Topographic Data via ASTER (NASA)

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

pia12090-browse

[Editor’s note: NASA and Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and industry (METI) released new 30 meter resolution Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) Global Digital Elevation Model (GDEM) to the worldwide June 29, 2009. The new dataset covers the high latitudes with increased precision over SRTM, although the cloud cover problems that plauge ASTER can prove problematic. The servers were being hit heavy on Monday and data download is convoluted. The preview of the data uses a curious data exploration color ramp with inverted shading. Thanks Tom and Laris!]

Republished from NASA.

PASADENA, Calif. – NASA and Japan released a new digital topographic map of Earth Monday that covers more of our planet than ever before. The map was produced with detailed measurements from NASA’s Terra spacecraft.

The new global digital elevation model of Earth was created from nearly 1.3 million individual stereo-pair images collected by the Japanese Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer, or Aster, instrument aboard Terra. NASA and Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, known as METI, developed the data set. It is available online to users everywhere at no cost.

“This is the most complete, consistent global digital elevation data yet made available to the world,” said Woody Turner, Aster program scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “This unique global set of data will serve users and researchers from a wide array of disciplines that need elevation and terrain information.”

According to Mike Abrams, Aster science team leader at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., the new topographic information will be of value throughout the Earth sciences and has many practical applications. “Aster’s accurate topographic data will be used for engineering, energy exploration, conserving natural resources, environmental management, public works design, firefighting, recreation, geology and city planning, to name just a few areas,” Abrams said.

Previously, the most complete topographic set of data publicly available was from NASA’s Shuttle Radar Topography Mission. That mission mapped 80 percent of Earth’s landmass, between 60 degrees north latitude and 57 degrees south. The new Aster data expand coverage to 99 percent, from 83 degrees north latitude and 83 degrees south. Each elevation measurement point in the new data is 30 meters (98 feet) apart.

“The Aster data fill in many of the voids in the shuttle mission’s data, such as in very steep terrains and in some deserts,” said Michael Kobrick, Shuttle Radar Topography Mission project scientist at JPL. “NASA is working to combine the Aster data with that of the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission and other sources to produce an even better global topographic map.”

NASA and METI are jointly contributing the Aster topographic data to the Group on Earth Observations, an international partnership headquartered at the World Meteorological Organization in Geneva, Switzerland, for use in its Global Earth Observation System of Systems. This “system of systems” is a collaborative, international effort to share and integrate Earth observation data from many different instruments and systems to help monitor and forecast global environmental changes.

NASA, METI and the U.S. Geological Survey validated the data, with support from the U.S. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and other collaborators. The data will be distributed by NASA’s Land Processes Distributed Active Archive Center at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Earth Resources Observation and Science Data Center in Sioux Falls, S.D., and by METI’s Earth Remote Sensing Data Analysis Center in Tokyo.

Aster is one of five Earth-observing instruments launched on Terra in December 1999. Aster acquires images from the visible to the thermal infrared wavelength region, with spatial resolutions ranging from about 15 to 90 meters (50 to 300 feet). A joint science team from the U.S. and Japan validates and calibrates the instrument and data products. The U.S. science team is located at JPL.

For visualizations of the new Aster topographic data, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/20090629.html .

Data users can download the Aster global digital elevation model at: https://wist.echo.nasa.gov/~wist/api/imswelcome and http://www.gdem.aster.ersdac.or.jp .

For more information about NASA and agency programs, visit: http://www.nasa.gov .

JPL is managed for NASA by the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

Collision Aftermath (Wash Post)

Thursday, February 19th, 2009

[Editor’s note: Last week’s collision of two satellites added to a growing list of “junk” polluting the envelope around our planet with the flotsam and jetsam of our satellite-dependent civilization. The rubbish is increasingly a hazard for human spaceflight and has put important equipment such as the Hubble Space Telescope and communications satellites at risk of being struck by an object moving at hypervelocity. This graphic from Patterson Clark shows where the collision occurred in relation to important platforms.]

Republished from The Washington Post.
Originally published: 13 February 2009.
Graphic by Patterson Clark.

Two satellites smashed together Tuesday, creating a spreading cloud of space junk that slightly increases the chance that other spacecraft could be damaged by the debris.

Related article from Wired: Lost in Space: 8 Weird Pieces of Space Junk


SOURCES: NASA; Union of Concerned Scientists; staff reports

Related article: Satellite Collision Adds to ‘Space Junk’ Problem

By Joel Achenbach

Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, February 14, 2009; Page A03

Satellite 33442 orbits Earth every 91 minutes, circling at an inclination of 56.1 degrees to the equator and gradually slowing down, destined to fall into the atmosphere in late spring or summer and burn up. Aficionados of satellites know that 33442 is a tool bag. A spacewalking astronaut let it slip last year, adding one more tiny, artificial moon to the junk in low Earth orbit.

The military has a running catalog of more than 19,000 pieces of orbital debris. This week, the census of space schmutz suddenly jumped by 600 — the initial estimate of the number of fragments from Tuesday’s stunning collision of two satellites high above Siberia.

Space is now polluted with the flotsam and jetsam of a satellite-dependent civilization. The rubbish is increasingly a hazard for human spaceflight and has put important equipment such as the Hubble Space Telescope and communications satellites at risk of being struck by an object moving at hypervelocity.

(more…)

Google Outs Earth 5 with Ocean Floor, More (Electronista)

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

UPDATE: Be cautious about installing GE 5 on your Mac. Wired has the details . . .

[Editor's note: New 3d ocean floor elevation data, historical land imagery, ability to record virtual tours, and 3d planet Mars mode come to Google Earth in version 5 released Monday, Feb. 2, 2009.]

Republished from Electronista / MacNN.
Google’s LatLong blog has official coverage: Historical Imagery and Ocean elevation data.

Download version 5 from Google for Mac, Windows, and Linux.

Google on Monday announced the immediate release of Google Earth 5.0, bumping it up from the previous 4.3 build. Among the biggest changes are the inclusion of a detailed 3D ocean floor, the ability to go up to 50 years back in time when looking at a particular location, record a virtual tour of locations, and a 3D rendition of Mars. The ocean feature was developed together with many partners, including National Geographic, the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the US Navy, among others. The approximate two-thirds of the planet can now be viewed under water and includes videos and images of ocean life, along with details on surf spots, expedition logs and more. The historical images are accessed via a clock icon on the toolbar when viewing a location on the planet. The Touring feature lets travelers show off their journeys by recording navigating through their destinations and easily sharing them with peers. The fly-throughs can be narrated for an organized flow of a multi-stop journey.

Thanks to a joint project with NASA, Google Earth now also extends beyond to include a 3D map of Mars. Apart from 3D terrain, there are annotations describing the location and circumstanced associated with landing sites and the red planet’s other curiosities.

The download is free for both Mac and Windows PCs. Comprehensive information on the new features of Google Earth will be published throughout the week on Google’s Lat Long blog.

Cities at Night World Tour (NASA) – Part 1

Monday, September 29th, 2008

One of my projects while at National Geographic Maps was creating an “Earth at Night” art side for the 2004 World political map supplement for the Magazine. I used a gridded 1-km resolution product from NASA and NOAA via the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program satellites to accomplish this and the result was beautiful and I often see the poster displayed around town.

The International Space Station “expedition 6″ astronauts have developed a new product by photographing out the station’s windows over hundreds of nights. Full color between 10 and 60 meter resolution. A barn-door tracker mounted camera helps cancel the orbital movement which would otherwise make the images blurry.

They have produced a video highlighting this new dataset with commentary featuring many world cities.

View video (will open large file in new window, be prepared for wait.)

I include their full blog post on that below. Thanks Pat!

Cities at Night (NASA) – Part 2

Monday, September 29th, 2008

Reprinted from NASA. Original publication date: April 22, 2008.

by Cindy Evans & Will Stefanov • design by Robert Simmon

To an observer in space, humanity’s footprints on the surface of the Earth are large and varied. They include the regular patterns of irrigated cropland, straight lines of roads and railways running across continents, reservoirs on river systems, and the cement rectangles of ports and seawalls along coastlines. But what about humanity’s signature footprint—cities? By day, cities viewed from space can blend into the countryside, or appear as gray smudges, depending on the style of development and size of the urban area.

The British Isles at night. Photograph taken from the International Space Station.

Looking east from a location southwest of Ireland, an astronaut took this nighttime panorama of population centers in Ireland and the United Kingdom. Image ISS016-E-27034 was taken on February 1, 2008, using a 28 mm lens.

Chicago by day, from the International Space Station.

Chicago, Illinois, is home to roughly three million people, but the wider metropolitan area includes nearly 10 million. By day (top), the cement-colored urban center of the city blends almost imperceptibly into the gray-green colors of suburbs and then farmland. By night (lower), the region’s ten million people cannot be missed. ISS007-E-16747 (top) was taken on October 8, 2003, with a 50 mm lens. ISS007-E-16525 (bottom) was taken on October 7, 2003, with a 50 mm lens.

Chicago by night, from the International Space Station.

At night however, city lights present the space observer spectacular evidence of our existence, our distribution, and our ability to change our environment.

A few years ago, NASA and NOAA joined forces to present the first world map of the nighttime Earth using 9 months of data collected by the DMSP (Defense Meteorological Satellite Program) satellite from an altitude of 830 kilometers (1 kilometer is 0.62 miles) above Earth. That “Night Lights” map, widely distributed on the Internet, helped many people visualize the world’s distribution of people and cities.

Astronauts circling the Earth have the wonderful vantage point of observing the nighttime Earth from 350-400 kilometers above the surface, taking in whole regions at once. Onboard cameras and a bit of experimentation allow astronauts to take highly detailed images of our cities at night and share them with the rest of us.

Port of Long Beach at night. Photograph from the International Space Station.

Orange sodium vapor lights illuminate the port facilities of Long Beach, California, supporting the round-the-clock operations of one of the world’s busiest commercial cargo ports. Image ISS016-E-27162 was taken on February 4, 2008, using the 400 mm lens, providing superior resolution.

But taking pictures in the dark is difficult at best, made even more difficult by the fact that the International Space Station moves more than 7 kilometers per second (15,659 miles per hour) relative to Earth’s surface. With daylight illumination, an onboard camera can be set to take an image with an exposure time of just 1/500 of a second. With the Earth’s surface in darkness, night images of cities require much longer exposure times. As the Space Station (or Space Shuttle) flies over Earth, however, the city the astronaut is trying to photograph will move across the camera’s field of view while the shutter is open—a recipe for blurry images. The longer the exposure, the more motion blurring there will be.

Don Pettit assembling the barn door tracker aboard the International Space Station.

Don Pettit built and installed a “barn-door tracker” to enable him to take nighttime photographs from the International Space Station. Astronauts use the tracker to keep a camera steady during long exposures while the station moves above the Earth’s surface. Image ISS006-E-44299 was taken on April 5, 2003.

In late 2002 and early 2003, astronaut Don Pettit, part of International Space Station Expedition 6, spent some time accumulating spare parts from around the space station, and constructed a device called a barn-door tracker. A barn-door tracker is a camera mount commonly used by astronomers and photographers on the ground to capture images of stars and planets in the night sky. The camera is mounted on a hinged platform that can be moved very slowly and precisely (by turning a knob). On the ground, the device allows photographers to compensate for the rotation of the Earth relative to the stars. In space, it allows astronauts to compensate for the movement of the Space Station relative to the Earth below. The careful coordination keeps the targeted city in the same position in the camera’s field of view during the long exposure, even though both the station and Earth’s surface are moving.

Pettit’s tracker and nighttime photography techniques produced hundreds of images of cities from around the world that had estimated resolutions (level of detail) of about 60 meters. Since then, a few other crew members have been able to successfully master night photography techniques. In late 2007 through early 2008, Expedition 16 Flight Engineer Dan Tani acquired a number of striking images of cities at night, including some exciting images taken with the longer, 400 mm lens, producing images with an estimated ground resolution of less than 10 meters.

Astronaut Dan Tani on an EVA during the Expedition 16 International Space Station mission.

Dan Tani, recently aboard the International Space Station as a member of Expedition 16, extended Don Pettit’s techniques for photographing city lights. He has taken nighttime photographs with a resolution of better than 10 meters (about the length of a bus) using a 400 mm lens. Image ISS016-E-026454 was taken on January 30, 2008.

Recently, Don Pettit assembled a sequence of several of the most striking images of city lights at night into an animated “world tour” [high-resolution (126 MB MPEG), web-resolution (39 MB QuickTime)] of cities at night (script). This video, produced entirely by Pettit, takes you on a quick trip comparing cities from different regions, all viewed from the International Space Station.

From a geographic perspective, cities at night tell different stories about a region. City lights provide sharp boundaries that delineate the densest concentrations of people, a characteristic that has been used to assess the effect of urbanization on Earth’s ecosystems. The increased detail of city lights available from astronaut photography can help refine urban boundaries defined from satellite data. Transportation corridors and major commercial development, such as ports, shopping centers, and cultural icons—like the Las Vegas strip—jump out of the landscape.

Las Vegas strip at night, from the International Space Station.

The “Vegas Strip” of casinos and hotels—reputed to be the brightest spot on Earth—stands out in the center of this image due to both its brightness and its diversity of light colors. Image ISS016-E-27168 was taken on February 4, 2008, using the 400 mm lens.

In many cities, neighborhoods of different generations can be distinguished by the lighting color and patterns along their streets. In many North American cities, older neighborhoods have less regular street patterns and light green mercury vapor lighting, while newer cities, especially in the western United States, have street patterns aligned to the compass directions and use orange sodium vapor lighting. The major Denver street patterns are rectilinear, aligned north-south and east-west.

Denver at night. Photograph taken from the International Space Station.

The streets of Denver, Colorado, are aligned with the cardinal directions. Image ISS016-E-26150 was taken on January 31, 2008, with an 85 mm lens.

Cities from different regions of the Earth are also identified by differences in their nighttime lights. Japanese cities glow a cooler blue-green than other regions of the world. Newer developments along the shore of Tokyo Bay are characterized by orange sodium vapor lamps, while the majority of the urban area has light green mercury vapor lamps.

Tokyo at night. Photograph from the International Space Station.

Like many Japanese cities, the night lights of Tokyo, Japan, have a blue-green glow that comes from mercury vapor lighting. Image ISS016-E-27586 was taken on February 5, 2008.

Border cities like Ciudad Juaréz, Mexico, and El Paso, Texas, illustrate different city patterns side-by-side, suggesting cultural influences on the development and growth of cities and infrastructure. Ciudad Juaréz, supports at least 1,300,000 people. On the U.S. side of the Rio Grande, El Paso is marked by the brightly-lit Interstate Highway I-10 that cuts across the city. Although the area of El Paso, with an estimated population of slightly more than 600,000 is roughly on the order of the area of built-up Ciudad Juaréz, the density of settlement evidenced by the distribution of lights, is much less.

El Paso, Texas and Juaréz Mexico at night. Photograph taken from the International Space Station.

More densely populated Ciudad Juaréz, Mexico, is separated from El Paso, Texas, by the Rio Grande. Image ISS006-E-44123 was taken on April 7, 2003, with an 85 mm lens.

The rapid growth in Jiddah and Mecca in Saudi Arabia can be mapped from the lighting patterns, and the road connecting them stands out as a bright string in the surrounding dark desert.

Mecca and Jidah at night. Photograph taken from the International Space Station.

What’s next? Earth is becoming an urban planet. As more and more people move to cities, and the surrounding rural and suburban areas are increasingly developed, the pattern of lights in cities around the world will change. Individual city footprints will coalesce into ever larger bright blobs. More roads will connect those cities to form an illuminated, lace-like web on the habitable parts of the continents. Nighttime photographs from astronauts on upcoming missions will document these changes, providing dramatic illustrations for the continuing story of humanity’s footprints on the Earth.

Astronaut photographs are provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations experiment, and the Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, Johnson Space Center. The images in this article have been cropped and enhanced to improve contrast. Lens artifacts have been removed. The International Space Station Program supports the laboratory to help astronauts take pictures of Earth that will be of the greatest value to scientists and the public, and to make those images freely available on the Internet. Additional images taken by astronauts and cosmonauts can be viewed at the NASA/JSC Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth. Text and captions by Cynthia A. Evans and William L. Stefanov, NASA-JSC.