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Landsat's First Images Show Rocky Mountains In Stunning Detail

samzenpus posted about a year ago | from the more-real-than-real dept.

Space 63

Zothecula writes "We haven't heard anything from NASA's Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM) spacecraft since its launch in February, but the satellite is now ready to start sending its first images back home. The first batch of photos are part of a three-month testing period, and show the meeting of the Great Plains with the Front Ranges of the Rocky Mountains in Wyoming and Colorado. Viewed from space, it's already a pretty spectacular scene, but the images from the LDCM managed to enhance it even further."

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63 comments

What's so special about that? (1, Insightful)

opus_magnum (1688810) | about a year ago | (#43272725)

Do those pictures significantly augment our understanding of what Earth mountains are like?

free & public (2)

schneidafunk (795759) | about a year ago | (#43272803)

You are probably correct, the military satellites have a ton of data, but it never hurts to have another. In addition, this data will be released to the public: "data from OLI and TIRS will be processed and added to the Landsat Data Archive at the Earth Resources Observation and Science Center in South Dakota, where it will be distributed for free over the Internet."

Re:free & public (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43272889)

So we ought to be able to get a free-as-in-speech alternative to Google Earth!

Re:free & public (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43273361)

These have been up for ages. Think google started with the older ones of these. The usual problem is age of pictures and tech from when the pic was taken. landsat is more interested in a bunch of different spectra (which yields different info). Visible light is usually a by product and they usually come out pretty bad. The newer ones they have the bw for it... If the pics are newer and look better I am sure google will soon be clicking these into their system.

It wasnt until MS played some publicity stunt with SQL server that we had something sorta interesting. Google currently is one of the best 'online free' one there is.

Re:free & public (1)

cusco (717999) | about a year ago | (#43275433)

That was the Tera-Server project, at that time the largest SQL Server database anywhere. You could log in with your 33.6 modem, put in the coordinates you wanted, and after three or four minutes see the medium-res image. Zooming in further took a LOT longer. My understanding is that on the Redmond network it was incredible, for the majority of us on dial-up it was kind of cool, but not terribly usable.

Re:free & public (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43275517)

That's where they get some of their imagery.

Re:free & public (2)

imsabbel (611519) | about a year ago | (#43276113)

Thats what Nasa World Wind is.

Was available before Google bought Keyhole and renamed it to google earth.

You can still download the laterst version.

Re:free & public (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43272915)

Never hurts unless we don't have the money to pay for it. In that case, it does hurt.

Re:What's so special about that? (4, Informative)

gabereiser (1662967) | about a year ago | (#43272807)

It's just they are higher detail and more refined than previous efforts.

Re:What's so special about that? (4, Interesting)

ProzacPatient (915544) | about a year ago | (#43273433)

When are they going to come out with a satellite that will let me inspect the gravel in my driveway?

Re:What's so special about that? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43274511)

They were going to launch it last Thursday, but scrubbed the launch due to weather at the launch site. Unfortunately, they missed the narrow launch window where you both your car was not in the driveway and your bushes were trimmed. Satellites with an perigee altitude of 3 ft are vulnerable to local traffic patterns and neighbors' pets, so launch windows are very rare and narrow. There is hope they can try again in 12 years when there is a grand alignment between your mailbox, lawn chair and BBQ.

Re:What's so special about that? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43275213)

Because a slashtard knows everything and there is no way a space-based instrument could resolve such detail. Never. Impossible. It doesn't exist or the slashtard would know about it. The slashtard knows everything.

Re:What's so special about that? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43275833)

Well, considering the diffraction limit for 500 nm light would require only a receiving optic of about 4 m across in a low Earth orbit of 120 miles to resolve 1 inch gravel, assuming a diffraction limited telescope was used in the first place. So of course it is quite possible, even though you might need a rather unlikely in the near term 50 m receiving optic to resolve actual detail of the gravel, assuming that is what "inspecting" requires.

So maybe that is why I said nothing about it being impossible (or even unlikely) when I made the joke you replied to. Of course it is quite obvious you can see gravel from higher than 3 ft given that most people can see gravel without bending over. You're the one claiming to know everything, or at least knowing that I was thinking but didn't write. When people make a knock-knock joke, do you lecture them about how stupid they are to think it is impossible to make a door that doesn't make a knocking sound when hit?

Re:What's so special about that? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,29 days | (#43287177)

Damn, now I want to start a company launching satellites by slingshot.

Re:What's so special about that? (5, Informative)

Reverand Dave (1959652) | about a year ago | (#43272917)

Landsat images are used by a variety of government agencies for things like flood hazard mapping and water usage analysis. High resolution Landsat images can help the forest service determine where to search for search and rescue or mete out prescribed burns. The actual value of these images is pretty important and yes it can help augment our understanding of mountainous topography. That is pretty much what is so special about it since the old landsat satellite was recently retired and the new images we're getting are so much better than the last ones.

First hand knowledge here.

Re:What's so special about that? (2)

girlinatrainingbra (2738457) | about a year ago | (#43275885)

Plus I thought that higher resolution images means that the quantitative analysis has more precision and accuracy. Now they can quantitate the land-mass that is covered by vegetation of type-A vs. type-B based on differences in visible and infrared absorption/reflectivity, and they can quantitate changes over time of vegetation and of wetlands and dry-lands/deserts with more precision.
.

Re:What's so special about that? (3)

Reverand Dave (1959652) | about a year ago | (#43276089)

Absolutely. So in a very real way, those images do, in fact, augment our understanding of Earth Mountains.

tl;dr gp is a troll.

Re:What's so special about that? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43273321)

Yup, the instruments on board typical spy satellites and imaging satellites (e.g. geoeye) are designed to just take sharp pictures in the visible for mapping and object detection. The landsat instruments are lower resolution over a wider band (visible through thermal IR), and are designed to provide data for agriculture, geology, forestry, regional planning, education, mapping, and global change research (from the landsat about page).... so yes.. it does significantly augment our understanding of what Earth mountains are like!

Re:What's so special about that? (2)

PPH (736903) | about a year ago | (#43274673)

These multispectral images are a lot more useful for finding where you stoners are growing your pot.

Re:What's so special about that? (1)

cusco (717999) | about a year ago | (#43275505)

I live in Washington, I can grow it in my front yard if I want to! Of course then I'd have the neighbor kids stomping through the iris bed, so it has to stay inside.

Re:What's so special about that? (1)

chihowa (366380) | about a year ago | (#43275877)

I live in Washington, I can grow it in my front yard if I want to! Of course then I'd have the neighbor kids stomping through the iris bed, so it has to stay inside.

This is a picture of Colorado. We can grow it in our front lawns here, too!

Re:What's so special about that? (4, Informative)

Remus Shepherd (32833) | about a year ago | (#43274815)

These pictures continue our 40-year record of watching the Earth. Because Landsat has such a complete record, we gain a lot of understanding about how the Earth changes with the seasons and over time. LDCM will enable us to continue that record out into the future. So yes, these pictures will help a lot.

Disclaimer: I work on the LDCM project, and in fact I created that first PR image. It's a shame they chose Colorado because the OLI (Operational Land Imager) instrument was built there. We are looking at some stunning images, and the new data this instrument is collecting will knock scientists' socks off for years to come.

Re:What's so special about that? (2)

rk (6314) | 1 year,30 days | (#43277431)

Heard a rumor you took at least one really cool picture of the moon with it too. Can you confirm or deny?

Re:What's so special about that? (1)

Remus Shepherd (32833) | 1 year,28 days | (#43293405)

The first Lunar image was yesterday (3/26). It's pretty cool from a calibration standpoint, but don't expect to ever see that image. It's not meant for public consumption, and most people wouldn't consider it a very good snapshot of the moon. It's stretched and the image is small so not many details can be seen. As a calibration source, however, it's exactly what we wanted.

Re:What's so special about that? (1)

david.given (6740) | 1 year,29 days | (#43279545)

How do these images compare to the absurdly high resolution images provided by the HiRISE camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter? The PR images look fairly small scale.

It's always struck me a bit odd that we seem to have vastly higher resolution pictures of Mars from space than we do of Earth; and Earth's, like, right here...

Re:What's so special about that? (1)

Remus Shepherd (32833) | 1 year,28 days | (#43293419)

HiRISE has 0.3 meter resolution, so about 100x that of the Landsat sensors. However, HiRISE only has three bands -- green-blue, red, and a near-IR band. The new LDCM satellite has 12 bands, so it collects a lot more spectral information.

Spatial resolution is easy. Spy satellites have had absurd spatial resolution for decades. Spectral bandwidth is hard.

Re:What's so special about that? (4, Informative)

Rich0 (548339) | about a year ago | (#43275003)

Something others didn't mention is that this is SATELLITE data, not data from aerial photos.

When you look at Google Maps "satellite" view you are likely looking at a photo taken by a plane. Obviously it is much easier to get a high-resolution photo of a house from a plane a mile or two up than from a satellite 350 miles up.

Satellite photos have the advantage of being easier to acquire more regularly. The satellite flies over the country every day whether you need a photo or not. It will never be able to compete with a photo taken from a plane, let alone one taken from the ground. These are technologies that solve different problems.

There is definitely a use for regular civilian satellite images of the entire Earth's surface.

Re:What's so special about that? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43275159)

Something others didn't mention is that this is SATELLITE data, not data from aerial photos.

Dude, it's in the fucking summary, we know.

Re:What's so special about that? (1)

kermidge (2221646) | 1 year,29 days | (#43288527)

No, but they show we're getting better at incrementally and usefully augmenting our ability to discern and watch changes in, for example different flora and how they fare - useful data indeed relating to their overall health, water management, degree of susceptibility to wildfire, blight and other microbial and insect predations, and a raft of stuff I don't know about or have forgotten. That's just the plants part. I'm old enough to remember when the first Landsats were put up; data returned was eye-opening; we started learning of things that few had even thought of, because we'd never had the ability to see them before.

To you, no, nothing special. To people who give a shit about some of the complexity involved in looking at what's going on with our planet, yeah, it means a bit. And if real rocket science done by real rocket scientists doesn't match with the ostensible mission of /. what does? In your expert opinion, that is.

Why is every NASA image article a URL cricle jerk? (4, Insightful)

swb (14022) | about a year ago | (#43272859)

Why not add a link to the actual images on NASA's stie, instead of a fucking link to some ad/tracking/whoring site like Gizmodo?

Re:Why is every NASA image article a URL cricle je (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43272925)

You mean like the second link in the summary to nasa.gov? I'm assuming you didn't bother to RTFAs.

Re:Why is every NASA image article a URL cricle je (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43274317)

Then why even include the link to Gizmodo?

Re:Why is every NASA image article a URL cricle je (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43272929)

2nd link in summary

Re:Why is every NASA image article a URL cricle je (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43272969)

Nasa's own website is more timely as well - images were posted last Friday on Earth Observatory's Image of the Day.

http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=80687

Does it show Area 51? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43273069)

That's all I care about. It'd be cool if they forgot to blur it.

Re:Does it show Area 51? (2)

Remus Shepherd (32833) | about a year ago | (#43274835)

Landsat doesn't blur any images it collects. But it only collects at 15 meter resolution, at max. So yes, you can see Area 51 in Landsat images, but not at any detail that will affect national security.

Looks like Google Earth (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43273477)

I really don't see much difference between these photos and what is available on Google Earth. How much did NASA pay for this?

Re:Looks like Google Earth (3, Informative)

icebike (68054) | about a year ago | (#43273821)

I really don't see much difference between these photos and what is available on Google Earth. How much did NASA pay for this?

If you don't see the difference, you aren't trying very hard. Google earth pictures are much more detailed, but eliminate the spectral information that Landsat concentrates on.

The ones on google earth not only show the same horseshoe reservoir, but also allow you to zoom in to see a power boat pulling a water skier.

Re:Looks like Google Earth (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43274787)

If you don't see the difference, you aren't trying very hard. Google earth pictures are much more detailed, but eliminate the spectral information that Landsat concentrates on.

The ones on google earth not only show the same horseshoe reservoir, but also allow you to zoom in to see a power boat pulling a water skier.

Google Earth also makes it harder to identify whether you're looking at satellite imagery, aerial imagery, or PowerBoatView.

Re:Looks like Google Earth (0)

icebike (68054) | 1 year,30 days | (#43277357)

Nor is that germain to your purpose when using Google Earth. You really don't care. All that counts is resolution on the ground.

Re:Looks like Google Earth (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43274543)

A lot of the highest detailed images on Google Earth are taken from an airplane and not a satellite...

Re:Looks like Google Earth (1)

icebike (68054) | 1 year,30 days | (#43277365)

But that doesn't matter to the user. Only the final product matters for the users intended purpose.

WTF? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43273571)

So what? Other than the Landsat being a bit newer, Google satellite pictures of the same area [google.com] are far more detailed. Allowing me to zoom down to a single tree. But street view of the same area provies and even higher resolution view. [google.com] The color reproduction is also far more accurate.

So, What's the point of the announcement?

Re:WTF? (3, Informative)

icebike (68054) | about a year ago | (#43273983)

Google doesn't provide resource management capabilities of Landsat spectral images. Read the second link in the story, scrolling down to the second image where they start explaining all the different capabilities.

Google deliberately gets rid of those layers as they optimize only on human vision imagery.

Also, don't discount the probability that the images shown on NASAs sight are not at the maximum resolution possible.

Re:WTF? (5, Informative)

Remus Shepherd (32833) | about a year ago | (#43274885)

Landsat takes images in several infrared bands -- a chlorophyll band, two shortwave IR bands, and with the new instrument we have a cirrus band, a shallow water coastal ultraviolet band, and two thermal IR bands as well. This is not a instrument designed for mapmakers or Google pictures (although it can be used for them.) This is a scientific instrument, and it will help us see where vegetation is damaged, where crops are ripe, what is happening to coral reefs, and the effects of climate change all around the globe.

Analogy: If normal Google map pictures are made with a camera, you can consider Landsat images to be made with a Star Trek-like planet scanner. 'Scan for life/minerals/fire' is something Landsat can do that normal cameras can not.

Build Your Own (5, Interesting)

guttentag (313541) | about a year ago | (#43273593)

An engineer at Orbital Sciences created a 1/48th scale paper model of the landsat satellite that you can print, build and hang above your cubicle for nerd cred.

Printable model here [google.com] .
Assembly Instructions here [google.com] .

It actually looks pretty cool... not that I'll be spending two hours building it myself.

I don't see any "stunning" or "detail" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43274413)

Maybe I missed the link, but I clicked on every link in the post and all the "higher resolution" options on the linked articles. I did not see anything that I would call even as good as Google Maps. Pretty pathetic article.

Groundbreaking Methodology (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43276125)

The team's scientists can assign colors to the different wavelengths to bring out important surface detail

Assigning colors to wavelengths, what a novel idea!

Landsat 8! (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,30 days | (#43278965)

It's about damn time. Landsat 7's sensor has been fucked up forever, Landsat 6 never made it in to orbit, and Landsat 5 had been running with old instruments for almost 30 years before it was shut down in January.

If you care about the environment, you should care about the satellites we use to monitor the environment. In particular, Landsat is crucial for understanding ground cover with a combination of spectral and spatial resolution that we don't get out of other instruments. We've been gazing back at the earth with these instruments for 40 years, and our ability to maintain the continuity of that data set was severely compromised when Landsat 7 flaked.

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