Thursday, April 12, 2007

Eye In The Sky

I've been playing with a site I stumbled upon via NASA's Earth Observatory website. Every week NASA sends out emails with links to various photos of Earth locations, and the stories about what's happening there. Today I followed a link to an Earth Observatory story about how satellite data is helping scientists investigate the extent of desertification in the Sahel region of Africa, an area bordered by the Sahara desert. There has been some suspicion that the desert is spreading. (To reassure you, long-term data indicates this isn't necessarily so, but I'll let you read the article if the topic interests you.) That article led me to another, which examines exactly what desertification is, which then led me to click on a hidden little link that took me to the really cool site which is the whole reason I'm writing this post. I clicked over to GeoEye, and was met with the most amazing set of satellite photos, and a nifty little scroll whereby I could call up each picture that caught my interest. (The scroll was actually a bit tricky. It wanted to move a little too quickly for me to always get where I was aiming to go, but I got the hang of it eventually.)

After I looked at every single photo on that scroll, I started nosing around the rest of the site, and discovered that GeoEye is a "commercial remote sensing company," and according to the website, "GeoEye is a leading producer of satellite, aerial and geospatial information." They have three satellites taking highly-detailed images, which they sell to customers who use them for "mapping, environmental monitoring, commercial fishing, urban planning, resource management, homeland defense, national security, and emergency preparedness." (They have a photo of Hurricane Katrina that made me say, "WOW." Out loud.)

All of these "planning the future of mankind" applications are worthy and beneficial I'm sure, but realistically, I personally have no use for the data as such. Nor, I suspect, do you. National security will just have to go on without our input, but the "highly-detailed imagery" is just so darn cool, that I had to tell you about it. Let the Smart People figure out how to use the pictures for the good of all mankind. I just think they're pretty. (They have a store if you want a poster, or calendar, or anything--and just so you know that there really can't be many secrets anymore, at least not above-ground, one of those posters they're selling is an image of Area 51. The government had better get to hiding those aliens.)