Feature

Visible Earth
06.02.05
A satellite image of the Earth
If a picture says a thousand words, then NASA's Web site, Visible Earth, speaks volumes about our planet.

Visible Earth serves as a clearinghouse for thousands of satellite-derived images, animations and data visualizations. Its database is searchable, and can be browsed by name of satellite or sensor, geographic region, type of phenomena and other groupings.

Image to right: "The Blue Marble" is one of thousands of satellite-derived images in the Visible Earth catalog. Stitched together from observations of the land surface, oceans, sea ice and clouds, it is considered the most detailed true-color image of the Earth to date. Credit: NASA

Doing a research paper or media report on California wildfires? Just type "California fires" into the search box to pull up more than 100 related images. Or view collections of images organized into categories such as hurricanes, coastal processes and solar activity.

The site is a collaborative effort of the Earth Observing System Project Science Office, the Scientific Visualizations Studio and the Visualization Analysis Laboratory, all at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. Goddard personnel came up with the idea several years ago in response to frequent requests for images.

"We asked, 'What if there was a central pot into which we all throw our work and that everyone can equally have access to, both inside and outside NASA?'" said David Herring, program manager for education and outreach in Goddard's Earth-Sun Exploration Division. "If it's for public release, why not share it freely and publicly with anybody and everybody?"

And so Visible Earth was born. The growing catalog now contains more than 30,000 images, the vast majority of which are available for public use, and receives more than 100,000 visitors every month. Images are accompanied by detailed captions and are provided at maximum resolutions in standard file types.

Visible Earth Web site
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Dan Stillman, Institute for Global Environmental Strategies