Archives for category: NASA

The atmosphere was electric at Providence Landing Park in Lompoc, California as the first stage of an Atlas 5 rocket ignited in the distance on February 11, 2013.

Cheers erupted at 10:02 a.m. from the hundreds of people gathered there as the rocket rose, gathered itself, then surged into a perfect blue sky over Vandenberg Air Force Base. As the cheers subsided, it was surprisingly quiet for a moment as awe sank in, save for the patter of scores of cameras clicking in unison.

A full 30-or-so seconds later, the sound arrived. You could feel the roar in the ground. The Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM), the latest satellite in the world’s longest-running series of Earth-observing satellites, was on its way to space.

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Earth Observatory, Earth Matters blog, February 2013

Today is a big day. I just arrived in Los Angeles from DC this afternoon, and I’m heading to Vandenberg Air Force Base in Lompoc, California, to see an Atlas 5 rocket blast Landsat 8 into space. Officially, the satellite is called the Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM) until it reaches orbit safely, but I’m going to call it Landsat 8 anyway in the spirit of keeping jargon to a minimum.

This is the second time I’ve been fortunate to have a front-row seat to the launch of one of NASA’s Earth-observing satellites. The mission that brought me to Vandenberg the first time was called Glory; it was a climate-centered mission, designed to measure aerosols and fluctuations in the amount of sunlight that reaches the top of Earth’s atmosphere.

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Earth Observatory, Earth Matters blog, February 2013

On the afternoon of January 14, 2013, a fierce bushfire swept across the campus of Siding Spring Observatory, a world-class astronomy facility on a ridge in Australia’s Warrumbungle National Park. The observatory is home to some of the most powerful sky-mapping telescopes in the world.

Ten years earlier, a brush fire devastated one of Australia’s other top observatories, so the staff of Siding Spring feared that history was repeating itself. As the fire reached the observatory’s campus, cameras and telescopes sent back disturbing images of flames lapping at the doorsteps of buildings and smoke billowing overhead.

By nightfall on January 14, the situation looked dire to the scientists and staff who had evacuated and were left to monitor the situation online. A handful of buildings on the campus were on fire. At one point, a thermometer on campus recorded a spike in air temperatures to 100 degrees Celsius (212 degrees Fahrenheit).

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Earth Observatory, February 2013

Mine Collapse in Turkey

At 10 a.m. on February 10, 2011, disaster struck the Çöllolar coalfield in central Turkey, near the city of Elbistan. The northeastern wall of an open-pit mine collapsed, sending about 50 million tons of material into the mine. The debris buried and killed ten workers.

The collapse was the second at the same mine within a week. Four days earlier, a smaller landslide damaged the opposite wall and killed one person. According to a United Nations report, debris from the two landslides covered 2.73 square kilometers (1 square mile). The larger landslide extended 350 meters (1,150 feet) past the original perimeter of the pit. Inadequate drainage of the mine walls likely caused the landslides, according to Caner Zanbak, an environmental adviser to the Turkish Chemical Manufacturers Association.

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Earth Observatory, June 2012

 

Siberia Burns

Siberia Burns

On June 18, 2012, a total of 198 wildfires burned across Russia and had charred an area that covered 8,330 hectares (32 square miles). Many were in central Russia, where firefighters have battled uncontrolled fires for months.

The latest flare-up prompted Russian authorities to declare a state of emergency in seven regions, including the Khanty-Mansiisk autonomous area, the Tyva Republic, the Sakha Republic, Krasnoyarsk, Amur, Zabaikalsky, and Sakhalin.

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Earth Observatory, June 2012

Wheat Fires in China

In mid-June, agricultural fires and industrial pollution combined to leave a thick pall of haze over central China. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite captured these true-color (top) and false-color (bottom) images of the fires and haze. Both images were acquired at 10:55 a.m. local time (02:55 UTC) on June 13, 2012.

Smoke and actively burning fires (shown with red outlines) are visible in the true-color image, as well as a large burn scar. The false-color image reveals details of the burn scar that aren’t readily apparent in the true-color view. Although the burn scar looks uniform, the false-color view indicates that numerous fields with unburned vegetation (shown as green) are scattered throughout the area. The cities of Bozhou, Huaibei, and Suzhou, which appear as gray patches, were the closest cities to actively-burning fires when Terra acquired the images.

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Earth Observatory, June 2012