For the previous two decades, NASA has continually observed our planet’s biosphere as it ebbs and pulses with the seasons.
The data is extremely useful and necessary for the researchers, however, the time-lapse imagery supplies us with a magnificent visualization of Earth’s most special characteristic – life.
The SeaWiFS (Sea-viewing Wide Field-of-view Sensor) was set in motion in 1997 and spent another 13 years looking down on us from its orbit 435 miles (roughly 700 kilometers) overhead.
The purpose of the satellite was to gather data on the bio-optical properties of Earth’s land masses and oceans. Since it did this, it observed our planet’s living colours change with the seasons.
The SeaWiFS was not the first detector to collect optical information on the Earth’s biosphere, with the Landsat program beginning their imaging work in the early ’70s.
It is not even close to the last, as a growing variety of digital technologies are sent into orbit to map the light rebounding back in ever greater resolutions.
For researchers, long-term trends help supply a glimpse of things to come soon. Satellite data from that programs is utilized to track the health of plants, forests, and fisheries worldwide year by year, helping to make better models and forecast disasters.
As our planet seems to nearly breathe, the rest of us can value the sheer beauty of our globe.
Have a good look at the image below to get a sense of our planet’s pulse of life, as the white of the ice advances and retreats, the purple tones signaling sparse degrees of phytoplankton, and the darkening and also fading greens symbolizing plant growth and algal blooms.
This incredible animation has been made using data from NASA’s Terra satellite and the SeaWiFS, Aqua and also Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership weather satellites.
Technology is reaching a point where sensors can pick up greater details at wavelengths that can show what’s going on at a chemical level.
As an example of it, particular changes in the light reflected from plants can highlight the moments photosynthesis is converting water and carbon dioxide into sugars.
A few years ago, NASA used this procedure to research the productivity of corn crops in the Midwestern United States.
“It had been sort of a revelation that yes, you can measure it,” says Joanna Joiner, NASA researcher.
Referring to the corn, she also adds, “Those plants possess some of the highest fluorescence rates on this planet at their peak.”
With such a huge catalogue of images dating back almost half-century, NASA investigators can get a very clear idea of the types of changes that take time to emerge.
“As the satellite archive become larger, you see more and more dynamics emerging,” says the chief of the Biospheric Sciences Laboratory at NASA Goddard, Jeffrey Masek.
See this video below to find out how a history of watching Earth informs scientific research: