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Smile, you're on satellite imagery!

Dateline: 05/10/97

Images of the earth from space are fascinating and provide a plethora of information about the planet. Satellites are always overhead, recording data about current conditions on the ground. The Internet is a great place to find interesting satellite and space imagery.

One of the best sources for images on a variety of topics is the Earth From Space site from NASA's Earth Sciences Branch. The site is very easy to browse through to access and view photos. On the page are seven subject categories (such as cities, distinctive features, and geographic regions) and an image of the earth with dots indicating geographic areas. Click a subject or a geographical area and you'll get a list of specific subjects which will lead to thumbnail images. Choose between low-resolution or high-resolution images (file sizes are noted) and load one into your browser. Along with the image, you'll also get a through description of the photo.

For example, an image of Los Angeles vividly shows the metropolitan region. If you look carefully, you'll be able to see some of the major freeways and their associated corridors. The coastline and mountain ranges are clearly visible in the photograph, along with some renegade clouds. Images such as this one help geographers and urban planners to understand the city and its surroundings.

The Spaceborne Imaging Radar is another NASA site organized by subject. Choosing a subject leads to a list of images about that subject. The images were gathered by the Spaceborne Imaging Radar-C/X-Band Synthetic Aperture Radar which was flown twice in 1994 on the space shuttle Endeavor. The radar system is able to gather data about the earth even if weather conditions are poor or if there is no sunlight. These images are also accompanied by a description,

Earthshots is a wonderful site where you can learn basic interpretation of satellite imagery. Seventeen dots on a graphic of the earth lead to Landsat images of that area and a frame-based description of the images. The text provides an in-depth discussion of each image and the features displayed in the image. Additional references are also provided for more information. Earthshots is a great place to start if you're trying to learn the basics of remote sensing and imagery.

Copies of images can even be purchased online through the U.S. Geologic Survey's EROS Data Center. Some of the most popular and interesting images from their collection of millions are available for viewing and purchase at the Special Projects Images site.

Good luck; I hope you find the images you're looking for.

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