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Earth From Space: Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

Overview

Spectacular images using the latest satellite-imaging technologies.

With thousands of orbiting satellites regularly sending back computer-generated images, no place on Earth is isolated — the Himalayas are as easy to photograph as Manhattan. In addition to providing data that is vital for science and new technologies, satellite images can also be appreciated for their astonishing beauty.

The newest generation of satellites is extraordinarily ...

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Overview

Spectacular images using the latest satellite-imaging technologies.

With thousands of orbiting satellites regularly sending back computer-generated images, no place on Earth is isolated — the Himalayas are as easy to photograph as Manhattan. In addition to providing data that is vital for science and new technologies, satellite images can also be appreciated for their astonishing beauty.

The newest generation of satellites is extraordinarily powerful and accurate, recording the effects of human and natural forces and showing how Earth continues to change over time. Earth from Space explains how satellite imaging works and showcases some of the most remarkable photos of the planet ever produced.

Along with clearly written background sections and informative captions, Earth from Space includes hundreds of stunning images,
including:

  • Coastal ports and major world cities
  • Military installations such as submarine fleets
  • Rebuilding lower Manhattan and the Pentagon after 9/11/01
  • Landscapes of wars — including those in Iraq and Iran
  • Rainforests, wetlands, coral reefs, rivers and mountains
  • The devastating effects of deforestation and desertification.

Fully revised and updated, Earth from Space covers a world of subjects — from aeronautics to ecology to commerce — through unforgettable images.

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Editorial Reviews

Star Phoenix (Saskatoon)
Johnston has gathered amazing photos of our major cities, countries, and geographical highlights as seen from space.
— Bill Robertston
The Chronicle Herald (Halifax)
Provides dazzling images of our world from a satellite's-eye-view.
— Jodi DeLong
Winnipeg Free Press
This lavishly illustrated book takes readers on a world tour from space.
— Lindor Reynolds
Science Books and Films
First edition chosen as one of the "Best Books for Junior High and Young Adult 2005" by Science Books and Films.
Booklist
[Review of 1st edition:] Stunning perspective of the earth, which the author has skillfully represented.
— Gilbert Taylor
Washington Post
[Review of 1st edition:] Telling photographs that show the beauty of our planet, and how much we have despoiled it.
— Kunio Francis Tanabe
Dwell
[Review of 1st edition:] A vast and varied collection of images, accompanied by educational text on the conditions of the earth.
Choice
[Review of 1st edition:] Beautifully illustrated book... the pictures are so stunning that the reader is immediately drawn to them.
— J.Z. Kiss
San Jose Mercury News
[Review of 1st edition:] Extraordinarily eye-opening book explores natural and urban landscapes.
— Charles Matthews
Rainbo Electronic Reviews
The WOW factor of this book is gigantic. ... For Baby Boomers like me who grew up admiring those first Mercury astronauts, books like this one simply reinforce our admiration for the people who make these remarkable achievements in technology useful to our everyday lives. But there's also no escaping the awe-inspiring splendor of the pictures in this book.
Shutterbug
This blend of scientific data and beautiful images make the book a delight both the mind and the eye.
Winnipeg Free Press - Lindor Reynolds
This lavishly illustrated book takes readers on a world tour from space.
Booklist - Gilbert Taylor
[Review of 1st edition:] Stunning perspective of the earth, which the author has skillfully represented... The beauty of river deltas, typhoons, erupting volcanoes, and even Vermont's fall colors contribute to this browser's treasury.
Washington Post - Kunio Francis Tanabe
[Review of 1st edition:] Many telling photographs that show the beauty of our planet, and how much we have despoiled it.
Choice - J.Z. Kiss
[Review of 1st edition:] Beautifully illustrated book... the pictures are so stunning that the reader is immediately drawn to them... Summing Up: Highly recommended. General readers.
San Jose Mercury News - Charles Matthews
[Review of 1st edition:] This extraordinarily eye-opening book explores natural and urban landscapes from a point of view that should make everyone worry about the fate of the planet.
Science Books and Films - Roger L. Payne
[Review of 1st edition:] A wonderful volume that entertains while educating... a masterful association of imagery and explanation... I recommend this book highly.
Star Phoenix (Saskatoon) - Bill Robertston
Johnston has gathered amazing photos of our major cities, countries, and geographical highlights as seen from space.
The Chronicle Herald (Halifax) - Jodi DeLong
Provides dazzling images of our world from a satellite's-eye-view, sometimes making us uncomfortable at just how much can be seen from those eyes in the sky.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781554072910
  • Publisher: Firefly Books, Limited
  • Publication date: 9/14/2007
  • Edition description: Second edition, revised and updated
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 9.00 (w) x 11.00 (h) x 0.87 (d)

Meet the Author

Andrew K. Johnston is a geographer at the Center for Earth and Planetary Studies, a research department in the National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution.

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Table of Contents

The Global View

Tools of the Trade

Living Planet

Structure of the Land

Water and Ice

The Human Presence

Roads of Commerce

Dynamic Earth

Sources of Remote Sensing Imagery
Remote Sensing Satellites
Further Reading
Index

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First Chapter

The Global View

The Earth, our home in space, is a varied and dynamic place. Since the beginning of human history we have sought a better understanding of the world around us. With the advent of the aerospace age we can look back and appreciate the diversity and beauty of the Earth in a way not possible until the 20th century.

These are exciting times to be observing the Earth from space. Since the mid-1990 s a new generation of satellites — with powerful capabilities to collect massive amounts of data — has been launched.

This book provides an understanding of how these amazing satellites work and how their images are increasingly important in many aspects of our lives. It presents many new images that were collected to serve scientific or technical needs, but that can often be appreciated simply for their beauty. The sensors that acquired the images see things in different and more powerful ways than our eyes do. The imaging satellites now in orbit provide perspectives that give us a whole new appreciation for the planet on which we live.

Remote Sensing

Remote sensing is a simple term that can be applied to any technology that views something from a distance. In the case of understanding the Earth, remote sensing means observing the Earth from above, either from an airplane or from a satellite in space.

Two technologies, photography and aeronautics, converged in the late i800s to change the way we look at our world. Initial attempts to obtain a remote view of the Earth involved kites and balloons. As technology progressed, airplanes were seen as a way to obtain views of the Earth not possible from the ground. Crews on airplanes could carry simple cameras and take photos. As satellites were launched recognized. Some of the first satellites carried cameras for observing clouds in the atmosphere. Later satellites were designed to observe the land surface. Current technology allows satellites to carry a variety of instruments, including cameras and digital sensors. There are dozens of remote sensing satellites in orbit with a wide range of capabilities to help us understand the surface of the Earth.

There are many different ways to collect images of the Earth from space. Reflected sunlight can be used to discern physical characteristics of the surface. Thermal-infrared radiation can be detected to determine temperature. Satellites equipped with radar can see through clouds and at night. Images taken at different times can be used to detect changes. Satellite images can be combined to provide three-dimensional views of the Earth's surface.

There are a great many applications for remote sensing data. Planners and cartographers use satellite images to map the Earth. Military commanders use the images to plan missions. Biologists can map density and diversity over huge areas. Meteorologists use satellites to observe and predict the movement of weather patterns. Geological differences can be mapped from orbit as well. New satellites continue to expand the possibilities for these images.

Geography

Geography is the study of people, objects and processes on the Earth in their spatial context, and this book is a geographical exploration of the world we live in. The use of satellite images allows us to understand where features in the atmosphere, oceans and land surface are located and how they interact.

We can observe the Earth from a great distance to obtain a global view, or we can look closely to see small details. Held at arm's length, a simple globe gives an observer a view of the entire planet. It is possible to see how the continents are arranged, but smaller features are not visible. Moving the globe closer to our eyes brings rivers and mountain ranges into view, but now it is no longer possible to see the entire planet. To see details such as city streets, other tools, such as city maps, are necessary.

Geographers use the term scale to describe the relationship between the Earth's surface and its representation on a map or globe. Satellite images come in many different scales. With the diversity of satellites now in orbit, we can observe the entire globe or zoom in on small areas. There is an appropriate scale for each remote sensing application.

Some satellites are in high orbits, thousands of miles above the Earth. Designed to observe an entire hemisphere, they are useful for understanding processes, such as the changing weather, that operate throughout the entire globe. However, they cannot discern small details.

Other satellites are in lower orbits, a few hundred miles high. From their vantage point it is possible to observe large areas such as entire countries or large metropolitan areas. They can also discern smaller things on the Earth's surface, such as very large buildings or agricultural fields, making them useful for mapping growing cities or regional environmental changes.

Still other satellites are in slightly lower orbits, with advanced cameras capable of discerning small details. These satellites are useful for planning and military applications since objects the size of an automobile are visible in their images. If researchers are locating small buildings or planning where to build a street, they would use one of these satellites. Because of the amount of visible detail, the images from these satellites can cover only small areas, such as a city's downtown.

As a result of our growing knowledge of how to use satellite images, information from different scales can be combined to provide a better understanding of the Earth. The technology of building and launching spacecraft has changed dramatically since the first satellite was launched in 1956. The technology of processing data on the ground has also advanced. New computer-processing techniques allow scientists to create global-scale maps by stitching together many images taken from low-orbit satellites. Although these images may be taken at different times, through advanced processing techniques they can be combined to cover the entire Earth in one large image.

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