Recently NASA released a photo that captured the world’s attention. The Blue Marble was that photo, an extremely high resolution photo of the Earths western hemisphere.
With the whole face of the planet in frame and with incredible detail the image captured everybody’s imagination. After a huge amount of interest NASA has release a second Blue Marble photo, this time taken of the Earth’s eastern hemisphere.
Another amazing image produced by NASA’s brand new satellite Suomi NPP – Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership – one of the amazing collection of Earth Observing Satellites that are helping us to understand our planet.
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The first Blue Marble photo was compiled from photo’s captured over an 8 hour period on the 4th of January. Six photos were composited together to produce the final image. The Suomi NPP satellite normally orbits at an altitude of 824 kilometers, for the Blue Marble shots the satellite was moved out to an altitude of 12,743 kilometers to get a better angle, it worked.
The second Blue Marble image was produced from six images captured on the 23rd of January, 2012. Both images were constructed using of the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite – VIIRS – instrument aboard the Suomi NPP satellite. The VIIRS sensor collects infrared and visible light data to observe wildfires, movement of ice, and changes in landforms. It also takes a mean snap shot of our blue planet.
Suomi NPP was jointly developed and launched through a partnership between NASA, NOAA and the Department of Defense. Locked into a polar orbit that sees Suomi NPP circle from pole to pole a dozen times a day this is the first of a new generation of satellites.
Satellites such as Suomi NPP are classified as Earth Observing System – EOS – in this case launched as part of the CERES program that comprises a 21 satellites that all have their sensors facing inwards, observing and sending home information about the Earth. Suomi NPP and the other EOS are essential for the further improvement of our understanding of the Earths climate.
Technically the mission is a bridge between NASA’s EOS satellites and the next-generation Joint Polar Satellite System, – JPSS -. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – NOAA – oversees EOS, JPSS and the CERES instruments on-board.
Suomi NPP was named after one of the pioneers of satellite based meteorology, Verner E Suomi who amongst his many innovations created the spinning camera that allow these satellites to take continuous pictures of the planet, often seen on weather reports.
Suomi NPP is part of a collection of instruments operated under the Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System (CERES) experiments. For 27 years the CERES instruments have collected data, helping scientists to determine the Earth’s energy balance and provided a long-term record of this crucial environmental parameter.
“CERES monitors minute changes in the Earth’s energy budget, the difference between incoming and outgoing energy,” said CERES principal investigator Norman Loeb, of Langley Research Center, who went on to say “As the Earth’s environment evolves, cloud properties may change in ways that could amplify or offset climate change driven by other processes. Understanding the influence of clouds on the energy budget is therefore a critical climate problem.”
Suomi NPP is considered a next generation Earth observing satellite, capable of studying multiple aspects of the Earths evolving environment. Previous generation satellites tended to concentrate on a single aspect and carry a single bank of sensors for making observations. There are 5 instruments on the Suomi NPP satellite, each designed to measure a different aspect of the Earth’s systems, each producing different land, ocean, and atmospheric data.
Helping us to understand the world that we live in the Earth Observing Satellites including Suomi NPP allow us to study the planet in ways never before possible. With a new super hi-tech bank of instruments Suomi NPP is a power house of a satellite, the first of a new generation of Über satellite.
While flying high in the skies, eyes pointed down towards the ground the Suomi NPP is providing stunningly beautiful pictures of our planet along with endless streams of valuable data about this Blue Marble, our planet Earth.
• Advanced Technology Microwave Sounder (ATMS), a microwave radiometer which will help create global moisture and temperature models.
• Cross-track Infrared Sounder (CrIS), a Michelson interferometer to monitor moisture and pressure.
• Ozone Mapping and Profiler Suite (OMPS), a group of imaging spectrometers to measure ozone levels, especially near the poles.
• Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS), a 22-band radiometer to collect infrared and visible light data to observe wildfires, movement of ice, and changes in landforms.
• Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System (CERES), a radiometer to detect thermal radiation, including reflected solar radiation and thermal radiation emitted by the Earth.