NASA’s new climate change-tracking satellite sends back 1st images

Environment

EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — NASA has received the first images from a new satellite that was launched to help study the effects of climate change on Earth.

Landsat 9 can scan the entire globe within eight days. It replaces Landsat 7, which is no longer in orbit, but Landsat 8 remains in orbit and has a similar design, according to NASA.

The purpose of these satellites can be found within their names: they scan the land to help track changes in geography, sea level, sea ice and other factors.

Below are some of the first images released by NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS):

This first image collected by Landsat 9, on Oct. 31, 2021, shows remote coastal islands and inlets of the Kimberly region of Western Australia (NASA)

NASA says the new satellite is viewed as a major upgrade for several reasons. It will work in tandem with Landsat 8, and together, the satellites can take 1,500 images per day.

Landsat 9 also features two instruments that capture imagery, which will allow global scientists to see close to weekly changes with our planet.

The first instrument, the Operational Land Imager 2 (OLI-2), can detect visible, near-infrared and shortwave-infrared light in nine wavelengths, according to NASA.

The second instrument, the Thermal Infrared Sensor 2 (TIRS-2), can detect thermal radiation in two wavelengths to measure Earth’s surface temperature and its changes.

In the Western U.S., in places like the Navajo Nation as seen in this Landsat 9 image, Landsat and other satellite data help people monitor drought conditions and manage irrigation water. (NASA)

NASA says the goal is to provide essential information about crop health, irrigation use, water quality, wildfire severity, deforestation, glacial retreat, urban expansion and more.

The city of Kathmandu, Nepal, seen at the bottom left of this Landsat 9 image, lies in a valley south of the Himalayan Mountains between Nepal and China. Glaciers, and the lakes formed by glacial meltwater, are visible in the top middle of this image. (NASA)

The new upgrade in Landsat 9 allows it to see 16,000 shades of color, whereas Landsat 7 could only see 256 colors.

The new satellite is currently in a 100-day test period which involves testing its systems and subsystems and calibrating instruments in preparation for future missions.

The white sands of Pensacola Beach stand out in this Landsat 9 image of the Florida Panhandle of the United States, with Panama City visible under some popcorn-like clouds. Landsat and other remote sensing satellites help to track changes to US coastlines, including urban development and potential impacts of rising sea levels. (NASA)
Sediments swirl in Lake Erie and Lake St. Clair in this Landsat 9 image of both Detroit, Michigan, and Windsor, Ontario, from Oct. 31, 2021. The Great Lakes serve as sources of freshwater, recreational activity, transport, and habitat for the upper-midwestern US, and water quality remains a high priority. (NASA)

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