One of the first things that caught my eye when I started checking for interesting satellite imagery yesterday was this: an enormous “V” of smoke draped over northern Canada, as seen by the MODIS instrument on the Aqua satellite. The plume was caused by numerous wildfires burning in the Caribou Mountains of northern Alberta.
At first glance, what looks like a decorative swash on the upper left of the V even reminded me of the look of the N we use on the Earth Observatory to indicate the orientation of an image. It made me think the two might in essence share the same typeface. In fact, the bottom point of the capital V of Adobe Jensen Pro (the typeface of our N) is much wider and curvier than the point in the smoke above. (Wired points out it also looks like the letter Z, which is true if you rotate the image clockwise a bit.)
Still, it’s a memorable image. And it made me wonder: how many other letters have satellites captured momentarily gracing Earth’s atmosphere and oceans? This is the first that I’ve noticed, but I have no doubt there are many more to find given the ceaseless mixing and swirling of clouds, smoke, dust, ice, and even phytoplankton that constantly occurs across our planet.
I think it would be fun to compile a gallery of them, so if you’ve seen a letter (or other typographical mark) in a satellite image, please let me know. Just leave a comment on the thread below. Send a link to what you’ve found, and explain what letter or other typographical mark you think you see.
If you’re feeling especially ambitious, mention what typeface it reminds you of as well. I’ll update this post as new letters come in, and perhaps we’ll eventually have the whole alphabet (plus a good collection of numbers and symbols). Sending non-English characters is ok: just note what the character is and what it’s called.
Wondering where you can look for imagery besides the EO archives? Here are a few places to try:
1) NASA Visible Earth
2) The Gateway to Astronaut Photography
3) Jet Propulsion Laboratory Photojournal
4) Scientific Visualization Studio Archives
5) MODIS Image Gallery
6) Landsat Imagery Gallery
Please note: Our gallery won’t likely include many of the high-resolution commercial satellite images that you may have seen on Google Earth because we cannot reproduce those images on our website without buying them. Besides, medium-resolution and low-resolution satellite instruments are actually better for observing large features such as clouds and smoke plumes. Here’s a list of some of the high-resolution instruments that we’ll only be using sparingly, if at all.
Tags: alphabet, smoke, typography
Come on guys, this is a “2” !!
And just where do I get photos?
Craig, just out the links at the end of our blog post. There are other sources out there, but those are good places to get started.
I found lower case “e” http://visibleearth.nasa.gov/view.php?id=4369
I found lowercase “c”
There is an “O” at 51degrees, 22 minutes, 30 seconds North, 68 degrees, 40 minutes 22 seconds West. This was formed by a meteorite impact.
The letter “S” (though the image needs to be flipped to be oriented properly) ;
Letter ‘O’ – Crater Lake. Oregon
Peter, can you include a link to an image you have in mind?
I see tar sands 🙁
I Think letter ” V ” is good… 🙂
Question mark made by clouds at NOAA site 3-12-12 around 8:30am
Ron, can you include a link?
I found a Y formed by two rivers joining, it the top middle of this picture:
Disregard previous comment, overlooked the “in the sky” bit. *facepalm*
Anna, the letters don’t have to literally be in the sky. We’re also interested in patterns that show up on the surfaces of oceans, ice, land, etc.
Here is a letter S:
“Quotation mark” in the clouds. A cloud poetry? http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/gallery/images/shuttle/sts-100/hires/sts100-710-182.jpg
A beautiful V. http://eoimages.gsfc.nasa.gov/images/imagerecords/6000/6151/amsterdam_tmo_2005353_lrg.jpg
I know this is cheating, but it turned up in a Google search for satellite images. Here is a question mark: http://www.google.com/imgres?q=clouds&start=340&um=1&hl=en&client=firefox-a&sa=N&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&biw=1152&bih=731&addh=36&tbm=isch&tbnid=Ig_-jR6lezW4EM:&imgrefurl=http://concurrentmedia.com/2011/03/30/will-clouds-block-uv-light/&docid=YoVBqexk_EEyCM&imgurl=http://concurrentmedia.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/question-cloud.jpg&w=285&h=450&ei=6ZcEUN7ZN7SO2QXw04HMBQ&zoom=1&iact=hc&vpx=253&vpy=320&dur=8269&hovh=282&hovw=179&tx=78&ty=179&sig=103829429563907668012&page=21&tbnh=176&tbnw=111&ndsp=18&ved=1t:429,r:19,s:340,i:242
“S” or “5” – http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA15017
The Eye of the Sahara is the best O of all!
Or maybe the Eye of the Sahara is a capitol Q?
Do you have, or can you start, an email list/newsletter for this?
Here are a few from google maps satellite view:
I love the letters “A” and “W” in this compilation…
Thanks, Chris. Nice gallery. Be aware, however, that the focus of our gallery is going to be lower resolution imagery from NASA satellite instruments. Much of the imagery Google uses come from commercial satellites with databases that are difficult for us to access. One of the best places to look is this gallery of imagery from the MODIS instrument:
Thanks… I didn’t quite understand the focus of this I guess. Now that I do, I will be scouring images that are in line with what you’re asking for… 🙂
I found this website that allows you to send messages using google earth satellite letters as a typeface… http://www.geogreeting.com/view.html?ywIrokBDOrswUlvyq
Here are a couple more links to entire alphabets created using satellite views:
Satellite Alphabet #1:
Satellite Alphabet #2:
Fascinating website. 🙂
“U” from a contrail
Can’t find a link on the MODIS or Terra site any more. Maybe you have access.
The best link I could find to this 170 megabyte file is
2345 pixels from left edge, 1789 lines from top edge
Not sure what the difference between this and the one I had found, but I liked the color of mine better.
Excerpt of this image…
A contrail casting a shadow onto lower level clouds.
Could be a Q or J or even a cursive G.
From 2011, August 11, 14:30 GMT, Goes 11.
2700 pixels from left edge, 1491 lines from top edge.
I placed an excerpt image from the GOES database here…
These old GOES images are avilable here….
it is number “2”
am sure it’s V……..