NASA might not be flying to the moon much these days, but they’re still doing pretty amazing stuff. To mark Earth Month, the Space Agency has released the above compilation video of the best images to come from its bewildering array of satellites in the past year.
Images include familiar amazingness such as the timelapse flyover of the Earth taken by the International Space Station (take a guided tour of the ISS here), plus plenty visualisations of the Earth as you’ve never seen it before…
Crop circles in Saudia Arabia
In Saudi Arabia over the past three decades farmers have developed a way of irrigating their crops in the desert by drilling up to 1 km underground for water that dates from the Ice Age 20,000 years ago. These images were captured by the Landsat satellite, which focuses only on certain portions of the electromagnetic spectrum so that fresh vegetation appears bright green.
Swirling aerosols in the atmosphere
‘Aerosol’ here refers to any kind of particulate matter in the atmosphere (not your deodorant): dust (red) is lifted from the surface, sea salt (blue) swirls inside cyclones, smoke (green) rises from fires, and sulfate particles (white) stream from volcanoes and fossil fuel emissions. Modelling swirling dust on a planetary scale requires the most powerful supercomputers in the world; for this portrait, NASA used the Discover supercomputer which has nearly 15,000 processors. That should do it.
Ice sheet loss
While we might normally be able to put the melting ice caps to the back of our minds, it’s less easy when you see it from a satellite’s point of view. Look out in the NASA video for a 18-mile crack in the Antarctic ice shelf at Pine Island, the first such sighting, which looks likely to break off and form giant iceberg 350 square miles (900 square kilometers) in size.
Also featured are satellite images showing Greenland’s shrinking ice sheet, which almost entirely melted last summer.