The joint mission of NASA and the US Geological Survey (USGS), Landsat 9, which began on September 27, has collected its first photographs of the earth.
According to a NASA press release, all of the images captured on Oct. 31 offer a preview of how the mission will help people manage vital natural resources and understand the effects of climate change using space-based earth observation.
“Landsat 9’s first imagery captures critical observations of our changing planet and will advance this joint NASA and US Geological Survey mission to provide critical data on Earth’s landscapes and coastlines from space and save lives. NASA will continue to work with USGS to strengthen and improve access to Landsat data so that decision-makers in America – and around the world – can better understand the ravages of the climate crisis, manage agricultural practices, conserve valuable resources and respond more effectively effective against natural disasters, “said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.
These first photographs show Detroit, Michigan, with neighboring Lake St. Clair, the intersection of cities and beaches along a changing Florida coastline, and images from Navajo Country, Arizona, which add to the wealth of data to help us Monitor plant health and manage irrigation water. The new images also provided data on the changing landscapes of the Himalayas in the high mountains of Asia and the coastal islands and coastlines of Northern Australia, the press release said.
Landsat 9 is similar in design to its predecessor Landsat 8, which was launched in 2013 and remains in orbit, but with some improvements. The new satellite transmits data back to Earth with higher radiometric resolution, which enables it to detect finer differences, especially in darker areas such as water or dense forests. For example, Landsat 9 can distinguish more than 16,000 shades of a particular wavelength color; Landsat 7, the satellite it replaced, only recognizes 256 shades. This increased sensitivity allows Landsat users to see much more subtle changes than ever before.
“First Light is a huge milestone for Landsat users – it’s their first chance to really see the quality of Landsat 9. And they look amazing. If we run Landsat 9 in coordination with Landsat 8, it will be this wealth of data that will allow us to monitor changes on our home planet every eight days, “said Jeff Masek, NASA’s Landsat 9 project scientist at Goddard Space Flight Center.
The press release stated that Landsat 9 carries two instruments for image acquisition: the Operational Land Imager 2 (OLI-2), which detects visible, near-infrared and short-wave infrared light in nine wavelengths, and the Thermal Infrared Sensor 2 (TIRS-2.) . ), which detects thermal radiation in two wavelengths in order to measure the surface temperatures of the earth and their changes. These tools will provide Landsat 9 users with vital information about plant health, irrigation use, water quality, forest fire severity, deforestation, glacier retreat, urban expansion and more.
“Landsat 9’s data and images expand our ability to see how the earth has changed over the decades. In a changing climate, continuous and free access to Landsat data and the rest of NASA’s Earth observation fleet data helps data users, including city planners, farmers and scientists, plan for the future, “said Karen St. Germain, director of the Earth Sciences division at NASA headquarters in Washington.
NASA’s Landsat 9 team is conducting a 100-day verification phase testing the satellite’s systems and subsystems and calibrating its instruments to deliver the mission to USGS in January. USGS will co-operate Landsat 9 with Landsat 8, and together the two satellites will collect approximately 1,500 images of the earth’s surface every day, covering the globe every eight days, according to the press release.
“The incredible first images from the Landsat 9 satellite provide a glimpse into the data that will help us make science-based decisions on key issues such as water use, the impact of forest fires, coral reef degradation, glacier and shelf ice retreat, and tropical deforestation – the historic moment is the climax our longstanding partnership with NASA to develop, deploy and deploy Landsat 9 that better supports environmental sustainability, climate change resilience and economic growth – while expanding an unprecedented record of the world’s changing landscapes, “said USGS Deputy Director Dr. David Applegate.