Tag Archives: Earth

Travel Theme: The Four Elements

By Vladimir Brezina

Ailsa’s travel-themed photo challenge for this week is The Four Elements: Earth, Air, Fire, and Water.


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And, finally, the Quintessence, the fifth element, “that which God used in the delineation of the universe” (Plato); which, unlike the four terrestrial elements, has no qualities (it is neither hot, cold, wet, or dry) and is incapable of change (Aristotle); and which is “subtler than light” (Fludd). (The last property makes it tricky to photograph.)


Zooming in on Planet Earth

By Vladimir Brezina

I just can’t resist those satellite images!

Following the Blue Marble and its more recent recreations, there are now some amazing new images of the Earth out on the Internet.

These images were taken by cameras aboard Elektro-L 1, a  Russian weather satellite in a geostationary orbit ~35,700 km above the Earth’s equator. Every 30 minutes, the satellite’s cameras create a 121-megapixel image at an unprecedented resolution of ~1 km of the Earth’s surface per pixel. The images were posted on the Planet Earth website by James Drake, who obtained them from the Russian Federal Space Agency and stitched them together into various time-lapse movies.

Some of the movies, such as the one above, attempt to show approximately true color. Others use infrared wavelength information to highlight vegetation in orange.

Various movies, zoomed in on different geographical regions, are available on YouTube or at the Planet Earth site, which also has interactively zoomable images that offer some sense of the true resolution of the images (the movies have much lower resolution for posting on the web) and a beautiful image gallery.

News reports with more information are here and here.

“When I see these images, I perceive the planet we live on as incredibly beautiful, interconnected and alive,” Drake said. “They show the Earth for what it is, a spinning orb of metal and rock with a thin surface layer of unimaginable complexity. The fluid water and air that cover our planet are filled with intricate self-replicating fractal patterns called life. What is happening on this planet is absolutely extraordinary!”

Slightly disconcerting, however, are the ads served up by Google with the YouTube videos:

“The End-Time is Here! 2008 was God’s last warning. 2012 is economic collapse and WWIII. www.the-end.com. Ads by Google.”

And another about UFOs…

Is there something Google knows that planetary engineers and scientists don’t?

Since these ads are personally targeted, though, watch the videos and see what Google has in store for you!

The Blue Marble

By Vladimir Brezina

Manned missions to Mars and colonies on the moon seize the imagination, at least of Presidents and would-be Presidents :-). Everyone else knows that these are dreams, half-baked, arguably pointless, and certainly unrealizable any time soon (unless it be by the Chinese).

But, in the meantime, NASA has been steadily adding to, perfecting, and using for a huge variety of scientific missions its workaday tools, its fleet of unmanned satellites. Some of these look outward into space.  But many orbit and look down on the Earth itself—and generate all kinds of fascinating and beautiful images.

This past week, NASA released two new images of the Earth as the iconic Blue Marble—the blue planet, seen in its entirety, against the vast blackness of space.

These images were each stitched together from a number of partial images taken during multiple orbits of the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (NPP) satellite. While the satellite was orbiting the Earth at an altitude of only 512 miles, the composite images appear to originate from an altitude of 7,918 miles. At the same time, they have very high resolution—the original images, with 8,000 x 8,000 and 11,500 x 11,500 pixels respectively, can be downloaded here and here.

As of February 2, 2012, the Western Hemisphere image had been viewed on Flickr over 3.1 million times, “making it one of the all time most viewed images on the [NASA Flickr] site after only one week.”

But that is still nowhere compared to the popularity of the original Blue Marble photo, a single image taken on December 7, 1972, from an altitude of about 28,000 miles by the crew of Apollo 17 as that spacecraft was on its way to the moon. By now, this must be one of the most widely seen and reproduced photos of all time:

Images such as these—and even before they came into being, science fiction writers’ imagination of what they would be like—have moved and inspired many:

Suddenly, from behind the rim of the Moon, in long, slow-motion moments of immense majesty, there emerges a sparkling blue and white jewel, a light, delicate sky-blue sphere laced with slowly swirling veils of white, rising gradually like a small pearl in a thick sea of black mystery. It takes more than a moment to fully realize this is Earth . . . home.

……………………………………………………………..Edgar Mitchell

And they may have convinced some hold-outs that the Earth really is round… although, as the secretary of the Flat Earth Society remarked on seeing such photographs, “It’s easy to see how a photograph like that could fool the untrained eye.”