Earth from Space

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Overview

Three hundred spectacular views of Earth taken by the latest generation of satellites.

For orbiting satellites, no place on Earth is isolated. The Himalayas are as easy to photograph as Manhattan. While satellite images are important for science and technical needs, they can also be appreciated for their astonishing beauty.

Earth From Space shows how satellite imaging — also called remote sensing — works and showcases some of the most extraordinary photographs ever published.

In the mid-1990s a new generation of satellites began to orbit the Earth. More powerful and accurate than ever, they can record the effects of human and natural forces, and how the planet is changing through time can be clearly seen.

The book also dispels popular misconceptions like those used in Hollywood movies for dramatic effect such as exaggerated surveillance capabilities of orbiting satellites. However, what the satellites do see is nothing short of spectacular.

Earth From Space presents stunning color photographs of:

  • Coastal ports and major world cities
  • Military installations such as the Russian Pacific submarine fleet
  • Rebuilding lower Manhattan and the Pentagon after 9/11
  • Landscapes of wars including Iraq and Iran
  • Rain forests, wetlands, coral reefs, rivers and mountains
  • Effects of deforestation and desertification

Earth From Space covers subjects ranging from aeronautics to history to ecology with unforgettable illustrations - an expansive big picture view of the world.

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Editorial Reviews

Science Books and Films - Roger L. Payne
A wonderful volume that entertains while educating... a masterful association of imagery and explanation... I recommend this book highly.
Washington Post - Kunio Francis Tanabe
Many telling photographs that show the beauty of our planet, and how much we have despoiled it.
San Jose Mercury News - Charles Matthews
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
Chosen as one of the "Best Books for Junior High and Young Adult 2005" by Science Books and Films.
Choice - J.Z. Kiss
Beautifully illustrated book... the pictures are so stunning that the reader is immediately drawn to them... Summing Up: Highly recommended. General readers.
Dwell
A vast and varied collection of images, accompanied by educational text on the conditions of the earth.
Booklist - Gilbert Taylor
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.
Winnipeg Free Press - Lindor Reynolds
This lavishly illustrated book takes readers on a world tour from space. Filled with images shot from satellites, it demonstrates the way the Earth is changing, the effects of human and natural forces and the odd beauty of various land structures.
Star Phoenix (Saskatoon) - Bill Robertson
Johnston has gathered amazing photos of our major cities, countries, and geographical highlights as seen from space.
Kunio Francis Tanabe
In Earth from Space: Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Andrew K. Johnston turns the satellite scopes upon our planet, utilizing an international source of remote sensing imagery. The book explains image processing using electromagnetic spectrum, the process of transforming computer data into clear pictures. But it is the many telling photographs that show the beauty of our planet, and how much we have despoiled it, that readers will linger over.
— The Washington Post
Library Journal
In this 9" by 11" book, Johnston (Smithsonian's Ctr. for Earth & Planetary Studies) has collected more than 300 full- and false-color space photographs and images at differing scales from the latest generation of satellite platforms. These are grouped into eight chapters by theme: major cities, military/political scenes, islands, ancient monuments, gathering places, vegetation on the land, weather forces, and commerce. Included in each are expert writings on related environmental and technical issues, as well as inset maps, notes, and commentaries. The highly informative coverage of land surfaces, ecological features, landscapes, and urban images is exhaustive. Many image combinations highlight urban, regional, and continent-wide geological, climatic, historical, and environmental features; other images show surface features equivalent in scale to low-flying air photography. Highly recommended for map libraries, school, public, and general collections.-Ian Gordon, Brock Univ. Lib., St. Catharines, Ont. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781552978207
  • Publisher: Firefly Books, Limited
  • Publication date: 10/2/2004
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 9.25 (w) x 11.25 (h) x 0.87 (d)

Meet the Author

Andrew K. Johnston is a geographer at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

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Read an Excerpt

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 camerasand 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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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
Photo Credits
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.

Read More Show Less

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