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Sequential Imaging of Earth by Astronauts: 50 Years of Global ChangeFor nearly 50 years, astronauts have collected sequential imagery of the Earth. In fact, the collection of astronaut photography comprises one of the earliest sets of data (1961 to present) available to scientists to study the regional context of the Earth s surface and how it changes. While today s availability of global high resolution satellite imagery enables anyone with an internet connection to examine specific features on the Earth s surface with a regional context, historical satellite imagery adds another dimension (time) that provides researchers and students insight about the features and processes of a region. For example, one of the geographic areas with the longest length of record contained within the astronaut photography database is the lower Nile River. The database contains images that document the flooding of Lake Nasser (an analog to today s flooding behind China s Three Gorges Dam), the changing levels of Lake Nasser s water with multiyear cycles of flood and drought, the recent flooding and drying of the Toshka Lakes, as well as urban growth, changes in agriculture and coastal subsidence. The imagery database allows investigations using different time scales (hours to decades) and spatial scales (resolutions and fields of view) as variables. To continue the imagery collection, the astronauts on the International Space Station are trained to understand basic the Earth Sciences and look for and photograph major events such as tropical storms, landslides, and volcanic eruptions, and document landscapes undergoing change (e.g., coastal systems, cities, changing forest cover). We present examples of selected sequences of astronaut imagery that illustrate the interdependence of geological processes, climate cycles, human geography and development, and prompt additional questions about the underlying elements of change.
Document ID
Document Type
Conference Paper
Evans, Cynthia A. (NASA Johnson Space Center Houston, TX, United States)
Date Acquired
August 24, 2013
Publication Date
January 1, 2009
Subject Category
Earth Resources and Remote Sensing
Report/Patent Number
Meeting Information
Geological Society of America Annual Meeting(Denver, CO)
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.