Archive for the ‘NASA News’ Category

Last Day to Vote in Round One of Tournament Earth

March 7th, 2014 by Adam Voiland

I hope your brackets are ready because polls for round one of Tournament Earth close today at 4 p.m EST/9 p.m. UTC. Second round voting will open on Monday at 9 a.m. EST/ 1 p.m. UTC). Also, stay tuned for occasional posts on Earth Matters with details about how images fared in the competition.

The images in the tournament are a blend of reader and staff favorites from the 2013 calendar year. The images are seeded and divided into four brackets categorized by image type: data visualization, photographs, art, and events. The top seed in the data visualization bracket — and the No. 1 seed overall — is a global map of fine particulate pollution that garnered more than 150,000 page views in 2013. The photo section is topped by a nighttime view of Liege, Belgium, as photographed by an astronaut on the International Space Station. The “art” section is led by a satellite image of a rare snowfall in Great Britain. The top seed among natural events is a January 2013 satellite image of a smog and pollution over China — the second most popular image on the Earth Observatory last year. Six of the seven most-viewed images on the site are battling in the events section. Good luck with your bracket!

Vote at

Create and print your bracket at

Tournament Earth


Night Launch Beauty

February 27th, 2014 by Adam Voiland

On February 27, 2014, we published an Image of the Day of the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) satellite soaring above Tanegashima Space Center like a candle in the sky. However, that wasn’t the only spectacular photograph of the night launch that chief NASA photographer Bill Ingalls (@ingallsimages) captured. I collected a few of my favorites below, and you can browse many more on NASA’s Flickr page.



You can also read more about Ingalls’ work for NASA — which at one point required climbing into an active volcano in Antarctica to get photos of a robot that was testing concepts for a planetary mission — in this profile and this Q & A with Space News.



A Quick Guide to NASA’s Newest Satellite

February 20th, 2014 by Adam Voiland

Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) is a name worth remembering. First of all, it’s a satellite.  On February 27, 2014, GPM’s Core Observatory is scheduled to rocket into space from Japan’s Tanegashima Space Center carrying a radar and radiometer capable of measuring precipitation in new ways.

However, this joint NASA/JAXA mission is bigger than just one satellite. The scientists behind GPM are hoping that the core observatory will function like a key that “unlocks” and unifies data collected by a whole constellation of existing and future satellites.

GPM Constellation 1-13-14


For instance, an earlier precipitation-monitoring satellite called the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) also used radar to measure precipitation, but it could only detect moderate and heavy rain in tropical areas. GPM, in contrast, will also sense light rain and snow and will see nearly to the poles (65 degrees latitude north and south), meaning it will extend and improve upon TRMM’s measurements.

Expect to hear a lot more about this satellite over the next few weeks. There’s a lot of information to sift through if you want to learn more about the mission, but some of it can be tricky to find. To make the sifting a little easier, I’ve compiled a “best of guide” to images and other resources about the mission to make your search a little easier.  Stay tuned for more, follow the mission via @NASA_Rain and on Facebook, and enjoy the launch.


Videos Worth Watching

More videos at


Precipitation 101
Find out more details about precipitation and GPM’s science goals at


Image Galleries
See image galleries at

The Human Dimension

Find out how GPM will affect life on the ground at

The Nuts and Bolts
Find out more about the instruments and technical details of the core observatory at

Learn more about the HII-A Rocket that will launch GPM into orbit at

Want even more detailed information?

See the Bulletin of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society paper at

Or read the launch brochure at

What’s Your Favorite Space Station Photograph?

November 20th, 2013 by Adam Voiland

Happy 15th Birthday, International Space Station! The first International Space Station component, the Russian Zarya module, was launched in November 1998. In the years since, NASA and its global partners have built a world-class orbiting laboratory and kept a continuous human presence in space since 2000.

I decided to celebrate the occasion by searching through the astronaut photography collection on Visible Earth to find of my 15 favorites. My goal was to find at least one image for each year dating back to 2000, though I couldn’t resist adding a few extras for some years. I also checked our web traffic statistics to see how well my tastes matched with our readers. In a some cases, my favorites were also popular. In other cases, not so much. (Any other fans of crepuscular rays out there?)

But enough about me. What do you think? In the comments section, please send us the links to your favorite astronaut photographs from the ISS. However, we’d prefer if you send no more than three.  And don’t forget to scroll to the bottom of this post for a list of the 15 most popular astronaut photographs on our site.

Sunrise, 2013
ISS036-E-028913 (sunrise 2013)

Elusive Red Sprite, 2012 (12th most popular)
ISS031-E-10712 (red sprite, 2012)

Midwestern USA at Night with Aurora Borealis, 2011 (6th most popular)
ISS029-E-012564 (Aurora, 2011)

Crepuscular Rays, 2011
ISS029-E-031270 (crepescular rays, 2011)

Nile River at  Night, 2010 (3rd most popular)
ISS025-E-09858 (Nile River, 2010)

Sarychev Peak Eruption, 2009 (9th most popular)
ISS020-E-09048 (Sarychev Peak, 2009)

Tokyo at Night, 2008
ISS016-E-027586_tokyo (2008)

International Space Station from Endeavor, 2007
STS118-E-9469 (ISS, 2007)

Total Solar Eclipse, 2006
ISS012-E-21351 (eclipse, 2006)

St. Petersburg and the Gulf of Finland, 2005

Greenhouses of the Campo de Dalias, 2004
ISS008-E-14686 (greenhouses 2004)

Hurricane Isabel, 2003
Isabel_Eye_ISS2003247 (Hurricane Isabel, 2003)

Mount Etna Erupting 2002
etna2_ISS2002303 (Etna, 2002)

Dhaulagiri, 2001
ISS01E6765 (Dhaulgiri, 2001)

First Image, 2000

Earth Observatory’s 15 Most Popular Astronaut Photographs (based on website statistics since 2010)

1. Iberian Peninsula at Night

2. Montreal at Night

3. Nile River Delta at Night

4. India-Pakistan Borderlands at Night

5. Fire in the Sky and on the Ground

6. Midwestern USA at Night with Aurora Borealis

7. Las Vegas at Night

8. Liège at Night

9. Sarychev Peak Eruption, Kuril Islands

10. Northwestern Europe at Night

11. Mount Tambora Volcano, Sumbawa Island, Indonesia

12. Elusive Sprite Captured from the International Space Station

13. Looking Down on a Shooting Star

14. Atafu Atoll, Tokelau, Southern Pacific Ocean

15. Hurricane Earl – The Astronaut View

Have a Question about Climate Science? #askclimate

September 13th, 2013 by Adam Voiland


Note: See the comment thread for an archive of questions and answers related to this event.

Do you have questions about how NASA measures, models, and visualizes our changing climate?

Here’s your chance to ask them directly. Earth Observatory is hosting a climate Q & A with NASA scientists at 2 pm EDT on Wednesday, September 18. Gavin Schmidt and Benjamin Cookboth climate specialists from NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York Citywill be answering questions live via the @NASA_EO Twitter feed. Earth Observatory artists and writers will also be available to answer your questions about how we visualize and communicate climate data.

There’s no such thing as a dumb question. Climate change science can be confusing, complex, and controversial. Our goal is to help you cut through the noise and find out what the science actually says. Need inspiration as you think about your questions? Here are some of the more common questions we’ve received over the years.  You can also read through some of our stories about key climate change topics including: warming, aerosols, extreme storms, the water cycle, and the carbon cycle.

Start sending your questions now by posting a comment in the thread below or by sending a tweet tagged #askclimate.

This September, Ask a NASA Climate Scientist

September 4th, 2013 by Patrick Lynch

The topic of climate change inspires a lot of debate. At NASA, it has also inspired a lot of science.

NASA scientists examine the Earth’s climate and how it is changing – gaining knowledge (or insight?) through decades of satellite observations, powerful computer models and expert scientific analysis.

Over the course of this month, these NASA climate experts will answer selected questions through the agency’s social media channels – primarily on YouTube, Twitter and Google+.

But first – we need your questions.

Have a question that’s always confounded you about Earth’s climate? Wonder why it matters that the climate is changing now if it has changed before? Or how scientists know changes seen in recent decades are the result of human activities, not natural causes?

Go ahead. Ask a climate scientist.

Here’s how you can take part:

NASA scientists will be recording video responses to some of the questions we receive. The responses will be posted to the NASAExplorer YouTube channel.

To submit a question, record a short, 10-15 second video with your question and upload it to YouTube – and be sure to tag the video “#askclimate” so that we can find it. You can also simply post a question on Twitter with the same hashtag, “#askclimate.”

NASA scientists will directly answer questions in three separate Twitter chats, covering key climate topics. Again, all these chats will use the hashtag “#askclimate.” You can join in on these dates and at these accounts:

Wed., Sept. 4, 2 p.m. EDT

Wed., Sept. 11, 2 p.m. EDT

Google+ Hangouts
On Sept. 27, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will release the Summary For Policymakers of its Fifth Assessment Report. This plain-language document, intended for the public, lays out what is a consensus understanding by the scientific community of the state of climate change science.

On Mon., Sept. 30, NASA will host two Google+ Hangouts – one in English, one with Spanish-speaking scientists – to continue the discussion about climate science and answer questions about the IPCC report.

Watch for announcements via NASA’s Google+ and our other social media accounts about the specific times and details for these events.

Smile! You’re on Space Cam

July 19th, 2013 by Mike Carlowicz

Comedian Stephen Wright has a one-liner that he used to deploy in his stand-up routines: “Every so often, I like to stick my head out of the window, look up, and smile for a satellite picture.”  This weekend, the entire planet is being encouraged to take that chance at least twice. The Cassini spacecraft — launched in 1997 and still sending back images from Saturn — and Messenger — in orbit around Mercury — will look back at Earth for long-distance snapshots of home. Here are some details from NASA news releases.

From the Jet Propulsion Laboratory: “The image taken from the Saturn system by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft will occur between 2:27 and 2:42 Pacific Daylight Time (5:27 and 5:42 p.m. EDT, or 21:27 and 21:47 UTC) on Friday, July 19. Cassini will be nearly 900 million miles (nearly 1.5 billion kilometers) away from Earth…The Cassini Earth portrait is part of a more extensive mosaic — or multi-image picture — of the Saturn system as it is backlit by the Sun. The viewing geometry highlights the tiniest of ring particles and will allow scientists to see patterns within Saturn’s dusty rings. Processing of the Earth images is expected to take a few days, and processing of the full Saturn system mosaic will likely take several weeks.” 

Cassini also collected this image (below) of Earth and Saturn in 2006. For details on how to find Saturn in the sky and participate in this weekend’s event, visit:



From the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory: “NASA’s Mercury-orbiting MESSENGER spacecraft will capture images of Earth on July 19 and 20. The images will be taken at 7:49 a.m., 8:38 a.m. and 9:41 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time on both days. Nearly half of the Earth, including all the Americas, Africa, and Europe, will be illuminated and facing MESSENGER, according to Hari Nair, the  planetary scientist who designed and is implementing the campaign. The images on the second day will also include pictures of the Moon, where all six of the Apollo landing sites will be illuminated, 44 years to the day after Apollo 11 landed on the Moon’s rocky surface. These images of Earth and the Moon are coincidental, taken as part of a search for natural satellites around Mercury.” 

For more of the MESSENGER story, visit:

We hope to post both views on Earth Observatory in the coming weeks.

The following is an excerpt from a story by Maria-Jose Vinas, NASA’s Earth Science News Team

Defying 30 mph gusts and temperatures down to minus 22°F, NASA’s new polar rover, GROVER, recently demonstrated in Greenland that it could operate completely autonomously in one of Earth’s harshest environments. The solar-powered robot, developed by students, was able to execute commands sent from afar over an Iridium satellite connection and collect radar data that will allow scientists to study snow and ice accumulation in Greenland.

To learn more about GROVER, check out this web feature.