Over 4 million photographs taken from space chronicle the changing planet

(ORDO NEWS) — All these pictures capture the magnificent wonders of our planet, but they were not taken on Earth. Instead, they were taken by astronauts aboard the International Space Station to capture the fragile beauty and ever-changing landscape of our shared home.

To date, more than 4 million photographs taken by people from space have been collected, from the early days of the Mercury and Gemini spacecraft flights to photographs taken aboard the space station, all of which are freely available to researchers, scientists and the public. worldwide.

These photographs are taken for a variety of purposes, from artistic to scientific, and have proven to have a wide range of uses.

One important use for crew photos is to study changes on our planet over long periods of time. For example, lakes Toshka and Nasser in Egypt have been regularly photographed from the station over the past 20 years.

This is partly because the water levels in these lakes fluctuate dramatically from month to month, constantly affecting agriculture in the region.

Researchers who have the opportunity to observe these bodies of water over a long period of time through surveys may ask the question: is their volume more or less stable over time? Or are they slowly losing water?

Andrea Wenzel is a geophysicist in the Geosciences and Remote Sensing Department who manages survey requests. She notes the flexibility that each crew member has in surveying the Earth. “The satellite usually takes the same photos in the same places in the same orientation over and over again.

On the other hand, astronauts can use different lenses to take photos with different fields of view – from close-ups to wide shots.” . The dome at the bottom of the space station allows you to take a panoramic view straight down, or you can choose to shoot from an angle that includes the horizon.

And because the space station flies in an asynchronous orbit around the Earth, astronauts can take pictures at any time of the day or night.”

Wenzel notes that the Viedma Glacier at the southern tip of South America is a good example of the moving earth’s surface that the crew observes over time.

The length of the glacier has shrunk significantly over the years, and the photographs allow researchers to observe which path the glacier travels and correlate this with data on climate change.

The team may also be asked to capture an event such as a hurricane, wildfire, flood, or volcanic eruption. Wenzel says: “We had one of a series of photographs that was used by international first responders to update flood maps.

As a result, they launched an operation to rescue residents of local villages who were stuck in place due to rising water.”

Astronauts often say that the most wonderful thing about observing the Earth from a space station is the view of our planet across climate zones and continents, with no mapped boundaries. Luckily for those of us still on the ground, their photographic skills allow us to see what they see – now and for decades – and benefit us all in many ways.


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