Landsat 9 has opened its eyes.
The next-generation Earth-observation satellite, which launched on Sept. 27, snapped its first photos of our planet on Oct. 31, NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) announced on Friday (Nov. 5).
The two agencies, which work together on Landsat 9, have released the initial imagery. It depicts the Florida Panhandle; Detroit and its surrounding area; Navajo Country in northern Arizona; the high Himalayas; and the Kimberley region of Western Australia.
“Landsat 9’s first images capture critical observations about our changing planet and will advance this joint mission of NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey that provides critical data about Earth’s landscapes and coastlines seen from space,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement.
“This program has the proven power to not only improve lives but also save lives,” Nelson added. “NASA will continue to work with USGS to strengthen and improve accessibility to Landsat data so decision makers in America — and around the world — better understand the devastation of the climate crisis, manage agricultural practices, preserve precious resources and respond more effectively to natural disasters.”
As its name suggests, Landsat 9 is the ninth satellite in the Landsat program, which has been studying our planet from orbit since 1972. It’s just the eighth to reach orbit, however; Landsat 6 was lost to a launch failure in 1993.
Landsat 9 will work together with the similar Landsat 8, which launched in 2013, to image the entire Earth once every eight days. The new satellite is replacing the aging Landsat 7, which lifted off in 1999. And this is a big upgrade. For example, Landsat 9 can differentiate more than 16,000 shades of a given color of light, compared to just 256 for Landsat 7, NASA officials said.
Landsat 9 has two Earth-imaging instruments. One detects thermal radiation, which will allow researchers to track surface temperatures, and the other picks up visible, near-infrared and shortwave-infrared light in nine different wavelengths, NASA officials said.
NASA is currently checking out Landsat 9 and its instruments, systems and subsystems, a process expected to take 100 days. In January, the space agency will hand mission operations over to the USGS, which will make the satellite’s images freely available to the public at its Landsat website.
“The data and images from Landsat 9 are expanding our capability to see how Earth has changed over decades,” Karen St. Germain, director of NASA’s Earth Science Division, said in the same statement. “In a changing climate, continuous and free access to Landsat data, and the other data in NASA’s Earth observing fleet, helps data users, including city planners, farmers and scientists, plan for the future.”
Mike Wall is the author of “Out There” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.
Hubble Looks at Spiral Galaxy NCG 7329 – Sci-News.com
The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has captured an amazing photo of the spiral galaxy NCG 7329.
Otherwise known as ESO 109-12, IRAS 22369-6644 and LEDA 69453, it resides 149 million light-years away in the constellation of Tucana.
The galaxy is a member of the NGC 7329 group (LGG 462), an assembly of more than 10 galaxies bound together by gravity.
This new image of NCG 7329 is made up of observations from Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) in the infrared and optical parts of the spectrum.
“Creating a colorful image such as this one using a telescope such as Hubble is not as straightforward as pointing and clicking a camera,” Hubble astronomers said.
“Commercial cameras will typically try to collect as much light of all visible wavelengths as they can, in order to create the most vibrant images possible.”
“In contrast, raw images collected by Hubble are always monochromatic, because astronomers typically want to capture very specific ranges of wavelengths of light at any time, in order to do the best, most accurate science possible.”
“In order to control which wavelengths of light will be collected, Hubble’s cameras are equipped with a wide variety of filters, which only allow certain wavelengths of light to reach the cameras’ CCDs (a CCD is a camera’s light sensor — phone cameras also have CCDs).”
“How are the colorful Hubble images possible given that the raw Hubble images are monochromatic? This is accomplished by combining multiple different observations of the same object, obtained using different filters,” they added.
“This image of NCG 7329, for example, was processed from Hubble observations made using four different filters, each of which spans a different region of the light spectrum.”
“Specialized image processors and artists can make informed judgements about which optical colors best correspond to each filter used.”
“They can then color the images taken using that filter accordingly.”
“Finally, the images taken with different filters are stacked together, and voila!”
“The colorful image of a distant galaxy is complete, with colors as representative of reality as possible.”
SpaceX Tapped For 3 More Possible Commercial Crew Flights To Space – Forbes
SpaceX’s Crew Dragon is just going to get busier shuttling astronauts in the coming years.
NASA announced it intends to issue a sole-source modification to SpaceX’s long-term contract to send astronauts to the International Space Station. This follows an agency call for proposals back in October for more flight options to send people to space.
Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft, which is the other major system, is not quite yet ready for humans following a difficult uncrewed test flight in 2019 that never saw the spacecraft reach the ISS. Starliner has spent some time fixing computer glitches and other issues (including a valve problem that delayed an expected 2021 launch) and is now expecting a second uncrewed test flight by 2022.
The October solicitation, NASA noted, confirms SpaceX is the only viable choice for the time being, given the agency’s safety requirements and the need to keep the space station staffed continuously in the coming years.
“It’s critical we begin to secure additional flights to the space station now so we are ready as these missions are needed to maintain a U.S. presence on station,” Kathy Lueders, associate administrator of NASA’s space 0perations mission directorate, said in a blog post. “Our U.S. human launch capability is essential to our continued safe operations in orbit and to building our low-Earth orbit economy.”
NASA stated it would use these new flights “as early as 2023”, and that the contract (in securing flights and allowing the agency to task personnel elsewhere) will help them get Boeing’s Starliner system ready to fly astronauts once it’s been certified.
“NASA and Boeing will provide additional updates on the status of Starliner’s next mission as we work through the investigation and verification efforts to determine root cause and effective vehicle remediation,” said Phil McAlister, director of commercial spaceflight at NASA, in the same statement.
The latest issue holding up the flight was an oxidizer isolation valve that was found in August, and NASA and Boeing together elected to pull the spacecraft back to the hanger to figure out how to fix the issue before sending the spacecraft aloft.
Another pressing issue for NASA’s future will be extending the planned retirement of the ISS from 2024 to at least 2028, which the agency has said for years it wants to do. It is in negotiations with Congress and with its international partners to do this, and in the meantime, last week the agency also announced it has secured three early-stage contracts for future private space stations to fly late in the 2020s.
See what food challenges astronauts face in space – CGTN America
For the first time ever, NASA and the Canadian Space Agency hosted the Deep Space Food Challenge.
The competition brought universities and companies together to propose solutions on how to feed astronauts on a long mission. Last month, NASA announced that the winners and one of the international winners of the Phase 1 competition came from a group of students in a university in South America.
CGTN’s Michelle Begue reports Colombia.
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