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5 Examples of How Our Satellite Data is Helping the Planet

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5 Examples of How Our Satellite Data is Helping the Planet

We could talk all day about how our satellite data is crucial for Earth science…tracking ocean currents, monitoring natural disasters, soil mapping – the list goes on and on.

But did you know there is another way this data can improve life here on Earth?

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Our satellite data can be used to build businesses and commercial products – but finding and using this data has been a daunting task for many potential users because it’s been stored across dozens of websites.

Until now.

Our Technology Transfer program has just released their solution to make finding data easier, called The NASA Remote Sensing Toolkit (RST).

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RST offers an all-in-one approach to finding and using our Earth Science data, the tools needed to analyze it, and software to build your own tools.  

Before, we had our petabytes on petabytes of information spread out across dozens of websites – not to mention the various software tools needed to interpret the data. 

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Now, RST helps users find everything they need while having only one browser open.

Feeling inspired to innovate with our data? Here are just a few examples of how other companies have taken satellite data and turned it into products, known as NASA spinoffs, that are helping our planet today.

1. Bringing Landscape into Focus

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We have a number of imaging systems for locating fires, but none were capable of identifying small fires or indicating the flames’ intensity. Thanks to a series of Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contracts between our Ames Research Center and Xiomas Technologies LLC, the Wide Area Imager aerial scanner does just that. While we and the U.S. Forest Service use it for fire detection, the tool is also being used by municipalities for detailed aerial surveillance projects.

2. Monitoring the Nation’s Forests with the Help of Our Satellites

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Have you ever thought about the long-term effects of natural disasters, such as hurricanes, on forest life? How about the big-time damage caused by little pests, like webworms? 

Our Stennis Space Center did, along with multiple forest services and environmental threat assessment centers. They partnered to create an early warning system to identify, characterize, and track disturbances from potential forest threats using our satellite data. The result was ForWarn, which is now being used by federal and state forest and natural resource managers.

3. Informing Forecasts of Crop Growth

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Want to hear a corny story?

Every year Stennis teams up with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to host a program called Ag 20/20 to utilize remote sensing technology for operational use in agricultural crop management practices at the level of individual farms.
During Ag 20/20 in 2000, an engineering contractor developed models for using our satellite data to predict corn crop yield. The model was eventually sold to Genscape Inc., which has commercialized it as LandViewer. Sold under a subscription model, LandViewer software provides predictions of corn production to ethanol plants and grain traders.

4. Water Mapping Technology Rebuilds Lives in Arid Regions

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No joking around here. Lives depend on the ability to find precious water in areas with little of it.  

Using our Landsat satellite and other topographical data, Radar Technologies International developed an algorithm-based software program that can locate underground water sources. Working with international organizations and governments, the firm is helping to provide water for refugees and other people in drought-stricken regions such as Kenya, Sudan, and Afghanistan.

5. Satellite Maps Deliver More Realistic Gaming

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Are you more of the creative type? This last entry used satellite data to help people really get into their gameplay.

When Electronic Arts (EA) decided to make SSX, a snowboarding video game, it faced challenges in creating realistic-looking mountains. The solution was our ASTER Global Digital Elevation Map, made available by our Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which EA used to create 28 real-life mountains from 9 different ranges for its award-winning game.

You can browse our Remote Sensing Toolkit at technology.nasa.gov.

Want to know more about future tutorial webinars on RST?

Follow our Technology Transfer Program on twitter @NASAsolutions for the latest updates.

Want to learn more about the products made by NASA technologies? Head over to spinoff.nasa.gov.

Sign up to receive updates about upcoming tutorials HERE.

Make sure to follow us on Tumblr for your regular dose of space: http://nasa.tumblr.com.  

Source: NASA


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Laguna Starry Sky : Staring toward the heavens, one of the many…

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Laguna Starry Sky : Staring toward the heavens, one of the many…

Laguna Starry Sky : Staring toward the heavens, one of the many lagunas in the Atacama Desert salt flat calmly reflects a starry night sky near San Pedro de Atacama, Chile, planet Earth. Cosmic rifts of dust, star clouds, and nebulae of the central Milky Way galaxy are rising in the east, beyond a volcanic horizon. Caught in the six frame panorama serenely recorded in the early morning hours of January 15, planets Jupiter and Mars are close. Near the ecliptic, the bright planets are immersed in the Solar System’s visible band of Zodiacal light extending up and left from the galactic center. Above the horizon to the south (right) are the Large and Small clouds of Magellan, satellite galaxies of the Milky Way. via NASA

Source: Just Space


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We See Seashores Shifting with Satellites

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We See Seashores Shifting with Satellites

If you’re like us, as soon as the summer Sun is out, you start feeling – well, just beachy, sand you very much. 

Lots of our favorite beaches are inside protected marine areas, which are regulated by governments to keep their ecosystems or cultural heritage intact. If you beachcomb at Cape Cod, swim in the Florida Keys or learn about Hawaiian culture at Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, congrats! You’ve visited a protected marine area.

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But time and tide haven’t been kind to some protected beaches.

Beaches are constantly changing, and science teams are using our 30-year record of Earth images from the NASA/USGS Landsat program to study what’s happening.

Overall, the sum total of sandy beaches has increased a bit over the last 30 years. But time and tide haven’t been as kind to our protected beaches – the team found that more than 1/3 of sandy beaches in protected marine areas have been eroding away.

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Some of these areas were designated to protect vulnerable plant and animal species or connect delicate ecosystems. They are home to humpback whales and sea turtles, reefs and mangroves that protect the land from erosion and natural disasters, and species which are found in only one habitat in the world. Losing land area could upset the balance of these areas and endanger their future.

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Next step: Looking for pearls of wisdom to save the beaches!

Right now, we aren’t sure which beaches are eroding due to natural processes, and which are due to humans – that’s the next step for science teams to investigate. Once we know the causes, we can start working on solutions to save the beaches.

Those 30 years of Landsat data will help scientists find answers to these questions much faster – instead of using airplanes or measuring the beaches by hand, they can use computer programs to rapidly investigate millions of satellite photos spanning many years of change.

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By tracking beaches from space, scientists can help keep our summers sandy for years to come.

And that makes us as happy as clams.

Read the full story HERE.

Make sure to follow us on Tumblr for your regular dose of space: http://nasa.tumblr.com.  

Source: NASA


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Mark Vande Hei’s ‘Space-Selfie’ : On Tuesday,…

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Mark Vande Hei’s ‘Space-Selfie’ : On Tuesday,…

Mark Vande Hei’s ‘Space-Selfie’ : On Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018, spacewalker Mark Vande Hei snapped his own portrait, better known as a “space-selfie,” during the first spacewalk of the year. (via NASA)

Source: Just Space


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Our Sun is More than Meets the Eye

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Our Sun is More than Meets the Eye

The Sun may look unchanging to us here on Earth, but that’s not the whole story.

In visible light – the light our eyes can see – the Sun looks like an almost featureless orange disk, peppered with the occasional sunspot. (Important note: Never look at the Sun directly, and always use a proper filter for solar viewing – or tune in to our near-real time satellite feeds!)

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But in other kinds of light, it’s a different picture. The Sun emits light across the electromagnetic spectrum, including the relatively narrow range of light we can see, as well as wavelengths that are invisible to our eyes. Different wavelengths convey information about different components of the Sun’s surface and atmosphere, so watching the Sun in multiple types of light helps us paint a fuller picture.

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Watching the Sun in these wavelengths reveals how active it truly is. This image, captured in a wavelength of extreme ultraviolet light at 131 Angstroms, shows a solar flare. Solar flares are intense bursts of light radiation caused by magnetic events on the Sun, and often associated with sunspots. The light radiation from solar flares can disturb part of Earth’s atmosphere where radio signals travel, causing short-lived problems with communications systems and GPS.

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Looking at the Sun in extreme ultraviolet light also reveals structures like coronal loops (magnetic loops traced out by charged particles spinning along magnetic field lines)…

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…solar prominence eruptions…

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…and coronal holes (magnetically open areas on the Sun from which solar wind rushes out into space).

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Though extreme ultraviolet light shows the Sun’s true colors, specialized instruments let us see some of the Sun’s most significant activity in visible light.

A coronagraph is a camera that uses a solid disk to block out the Sun’s bright face, revealing the much fainter corona, a dynamic part of the Sun’s atmosphere. Coronagraphs also reveal coronal mass ejections, or CMEs, which are explosions of billions of tons of solar material into space. Because this material is magnetized, it can interact with Earth’s magnetic field and trigger space weather effects like the aurora, satellite problems, and even – in extreme cases – power outages.

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The Sun is also prone to bursts of energetic particles. These particles are blocked by Earth’s magnetic field and atmosphere, but they could pose a threat to astronauts traveling in deep space, and they can interfere with our satellites. This clip shows an eruption of energetic particles impacting a Sun-observing satellite, creating the ‘snow’ in the image.

We keep watch on the Sun 24/7 with a fleet of satellites to monitor and better understand this activity. And this summer, we’re going one step closer with the launch of Parker Solar Probe, a mission to touch the Sun. Parker Solar Probe will get far closer to the Sun than any other spacecraft has ever gone – into the corona, within 4 million miles of the surface – and will send back unprecedented direct measurements from the regions thought to drive much of the Sun’s activity. More information about the fundamental processes there can help round out and improve models to predict the space weather that the Sun sends our way.

Keep up with the latest on the Sun at @NASASun on Twitter, and follow along with Parker Solar Probe’s last steps to launch at nasa.gov/solarprobe.

Make sure to follow us on Tumblr for your regular dose of space: http://nasa.tumblr.com. 

Source: NASA


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