One year ago NASA launched the Landsat 8 satellite. It’s the newest satellite in the Landsat Data Continuity Mission, a series of satellites that have produced an uninterrupted record of how Earth’s surface has changed since 1972.
Moving at 4.7 miles per second, the new satellite can complete about 15 orbits in a 24-hour period. It captures an image of the Earth about 115 miles wide as it orbits and it takes about 16 days for the satellite to cover the entire Earth’s surface. So every 16 days, scientists get a new picture of the Earth’s surface.
The satellite provides resolution down to about 100 feet, meaning you could see something like a baseball field.
Since its launch on Feb. 11, 2013, Landsat 8 has captured some incredible natural phenomena like volcanic eruptions, and documented man-made changes like widespread forest clear-cutting.
In December 2013, Landsat 8 pinpointed the coldest place on Earth: a ridge on the East Antarctic Plateau where temperatures can dip below negative 133 degrees Fahrenheit. The new satellite is equipped with thermal energy readers and can record temperatures of the areas it passes over.
The satellite captured the 138,000-acre Silver Fire in New Mexico last summer. The before image on the left was taken on May 28, 2013, and the 'during' image on the right was taken on June 13, 2013. Maps created using data from the satellite helped identify the areas with the worst damage, and where emergency restoration was needed.
Researchers were able to compile data from previous Landsat satellites and create this map showing the areas of forest clearing and forest regrowth. Over the past 13 years about 888,000 square miles of forest have been cleared, while only 309,000 square miles regrew.
The thermal detectors on the satellite show the heat energy radiating from the Salton Sea in California. The sea appears darker in the image because it's much cooler than the surrounding southern California desert.
Here's a true-colour image of Salton Sea in Southern California that shows the same scene as the thermal image.
Landsat captured this incredible shot of an ash plume rising from the Paluweh volcano in Indonesia on April 29, 2013. Later thermal energy images showed the hottest part of the volcano as it spewed ash.
Lake Qarhan is the largest salt lake in China. It covers about 2,260 square miles, but only occasionally fills with water. It's divided into nine smaller more permanent salt lakes. This image shows the largest of the nine, Lake Dabuxun.
This image of the Russian volcano Shiveluch was taken Jan. 24, 2014. You can see the ash and pyroclastic flow deposits on the summit.
This image of the wildfire in Grampians National Park in Australia helped emergency responders contain the fire. The grey colour in the image shows the burned areas while the active fire is on the right side of the image.
This map shows the surface of the United States during August 2013. The striped effect is the result of the way the Landsat satellites operate. As the satellite orbits Earth, it collects strips of images 115 miles wide.
This image was taken May 4, 2013, after the Springs Fire in California. The dark red areas show the burned vegetation. Even after a forest fire burns out, the area is still highly dangerous. All the burned leaf litter and undergrowth can cause landslides and makes the area susceptible to floods and soil erosion.
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