Roughly 438 miles (705 km) above the Earth, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite opened its Earth-view door on June 24 and took its first look at our planet. The above image was taken by the MODIS instrument on August 12, 2002, a month and a half after “first light.”
The image shows the Biscuit Fire, formed by the convergence of the Florence Fire and the Sour Biscuit Fire. The fire was sparked by lightning in the Klamath Mountains in Oregon and has burned over the state line into California, consuming over 375,000 acres as of August 14th, 2002. Actively burning areas are marked with red outlines.
Like its twin launched aboard NASA’s Terra satellite in 1999, Aqua MODIS sees almost the entire surface of our planet every day in 36 channels ranging from visible to thermal infrared wavelengths. On a daily basis, Terra descends across the equator at 10:30 a.m. local time, while Aqua ascends across the equator at 1:30 p.m.
With the launch of the Aqua instrument, scientists will be able to conduct the most comprehensive daily examination of our planet by combining data from two MODIS instruments on sister satellites in Earth’s orbit. Researchers will be able to observe land, ocean, and atmospheric phenomena in the afternoon with Aqua and in the morning with Terra. The instrument will make it possible to observe rapid, time-varying phenomena like clouds, water vapor, and fire. The different timing of the satellites’ pole-to-pole orbits enables scientists to focus on different aspects of the Earth’s climate system and to see changes within the system during the course of a day.
Among other things, Aqua MODIS will dramatically improve scientists’ ability to monitor the daily cycles of the large-scale burning of plant biomass in regions all across the planet. Scientists will be able to better sample fire activity and improve their chances of obtaining cloud free observations of the surface. With such coverage, researchers can gather more data on how fast and in which direction fires are spreading as well as information on how severely a given fire may affect air quality of downwind urban areas.
For more information and images, read: Instrument Aboard NASA’s Aqua Satellite Joins Twin to Begin Comprehensive Global Coverage
Image courtesy Jacques Descloitres, MODIS Land Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC
- Aqua - MODIS