Category Archives: Eyes in the Sky

Video: “A Year Along the Geostationary Orbit” – The disciplined tranquility of disorderly clouds

Check out the mesmerizing short film, A Year Along the Geostationary Orbit, which Felix Dierich created with time lapse imagery of the earth taken by the Japanese weather satellite Himawari-8: From 20,000 miles up, our home planet is a hypnotic swirl of the familiar and the sublime | Aeon Videos

Orbiting some 20,000 miles [35,786 km (22,236 mi) to be exact] above the Earth – much further than the International Space Station (245 miles) yet much closer than the Moon (c238,900 miles) – while perpetually fixed over the Eastern Hemisphere, Himawari-8 provides a unique perspective on the planet and its weather patterns. With the film’s haunting soundtrack and swirling imagery, it’s easy to get lost in the hypnotic clouds and forget that below them is half of humanity, rendered almost entirely invisible by the distance.


Archaeology from Space:
How the Future Shapes Our Past

New enhancements to low-cost GOES weather satellite station for amateurs

I’ve posted a couple of times about the  HRIT and LRIT Low-Cost System for capturing weather satellite images:

A reader who keeps me up-to-date on the project says the system now includes

“improved color images and the addition of IR enhancements showing storm intensity for Band 13 images as well as IR color enhancements for Band 8 images.”

Check out the images and updates here.

Image from GOES 16 satellite on Feb.17, 2019.


Enhanced image from GOES 16 taken on Feb.18.2019


GOES 16 enhanced image taken on Feb.18.2019


Archaeology from Space: How the Future Shapes Our Past

Videos: “Remote Sensing for Conservation & Biodiversity” – NASA webinar

These two videos are from a NASA webinar on the use of satellite Remote Sensing for Conservation & Biodiversity applications.

NASA ARSET: Remote Sensing for Conservation, Session 1/2

Conservation and biodiversity management play important roles in maintaining healthy ecosystems. Earth observations can help with these efforts.

Session One: Remote Sensing for Conservation This session will focus on remote sensing for habitat suitability, species population dynamics, and monitoring wildfires. Download materials from this presentation:… This training was created by NASA’s Applied Remote Sensing Training Program (ARSET). ARSET is a part of NASA’s Applied Science’s Capacity Building Program. Learn more about ARSET:

NASA ARSET: Remote Sensing for Biodiversity, Session 2/2

Session Two: Remote Sensing for Biodiversity. This session will focus on the Group on Earth Observations Biodiversity Observation Network (GEOBON), Marine Biodiversity Observation Network (MBON), and essential biodiversity variables. Download materials from this presentation:……


Archaeology from Space: How the Future Shapes Our Past

Improving GOES weather satellite imaging with low cost home ground station

Back in August I wrote here about a low cost system to receive images from GOES weather satellites. A reader points me to an improved software package described on the SDRplay Community Forum for obtaining better images with the system:

USA-Satcom has just released v2.1.0.0 of the XRIT Decoder. Along with enhancements for the XRIT Decoder, a new RSP Streamer X has been released and is operable with the RSP1A, RSP2, and RSPduo – new features include operation with two streams simultaneously (provided that the PC being used has sufficient processing power and an RSPduo or more than one compatible RSP are being used). Also new is the XRIT File manager which allows for improved operation with both LRIT and HRIT files, improved LUT for excellent false color images, user-selectable automated black filling of the white background on full disk visual and false color HRIT images, and country as well as state map overlays.

The new color enhancements are excellent:

GOES 16 Earth Full Disk LR – SDRplay Community Forum

Misc: Space visionaries, Satellite imagery in journalism, and Kepler retires

Some miscellaneous items of interest:

** The Return of the Space Visionaries – Rand Simberg/The New Atlantis – An excellent overview of the history and status of US human spaceflight and how commercial companies such as Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin are taking the lead in the move to settle the solar system:

Musk talks about humanity being a multi-planet species, in part as an insurance policy against earthly disasters, whether natural or manmade; he is particularly concerned about the potential danger to humanity posed by artificial intelligence. But he seems to consider two — Earth and Mars — to be a sufficient number for “multi.” Musk could in fact be accused of an extension of what Carl Sagan called “planetary chauvinism” — the belief that life can thrive only on planets. But many analysts, I included, don’t understand the motivation, once having finally escaped the deep gravity well that has confined us to the planet on which we evolved, to dive down into another, albeit a shallower one.

By contrast, Bezos, as noted, aims for a massive human expansion, and not only to many other planets but to inhabitance of space itself. Wealthier than Musk — on some days he is the world’s richest person — Bezos is also more willing to spend his own money. Last November he sold a billion dollars’ worth of Amazon stock and claims to intend to do the same every year to provide the rocket company with its annual stipend, and he recently built a large facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to begin the manufacture of his large orbital rockets. Musk, on the other hand, always prefers, if he can find a way, to fund his dreams using OPM — Other Peoples’ Money. In the case of Tesla and its subsidiary SolarCity, which sells solar panels for home and commercial use, he’s done it with loans from Washington (which he has since paid off), various government subsidies for the production of electric cars, and tax credits offered to people buying electric cars or installing solar panels. In the case of SpaceX, extra funding has come, albeit in this case in exchange for providing a direct service, from NASA and U.S. Air Force contracts.

Over a decade and a half since both men launched their space companies, they have made significant progress in reducing the cost of getting to suborbital and orbital space. If their plans for large reusable launch systems come to fruition in the next few years, with SpaceX’s BFR and possibly Blue Origin’s New Armstrong offering larger payload capacities than NASA’s non-reusable Space Launch System, they may well render it obsolete before the full Block 2 version flies. (The planned first flight of the initial Block 1 configuration of SLS has slipped to the end of 2019.) Before its second flight — probably no sooner than a year after its first — it may well be canceled for good, not to be resurrected, perhaps finally putting a stake through the heart of Apolloism.

** Satellite imagery for journalism: Why a picture is worth a thousand words – Geospatial World – A nice overview of how journalists are learning to use images taken by by satellites to investigate war crimes, environmental destruction, illegal fishing and many other

In July 2018, a disturbing video began circulating on social media. It shows two women and two young children being led at gunpoint away from a village by a group of soldiers. The victims are blindfolded before they are shot point blank 22 times. The social media posts claimed them to be from Cameroon but the government of Cameroon initially dismissed the video as “fake news”.

The video showed a terrain that could be from anywhere in the world, and the people could be anywhere from Africa. But BBC Africa Eye did a thorough investigation through forensic analysis of the footage. Among other things, they poured through satellite imagery of many years trying to match them with the landmarks in the video to prove exactly where and when this incident took place and who were responsible. The Cameroon government was forced to issue a statement clarifying their earlier stand and announced that a number of soldiers have been arrested and are under investigation now.

Satellite imagery has become an indispensable tool in journalism. Be it fact-finding or gauging the impact of a particular situation, reporting on climate events or conflict zones, because of the unbiased insights they provide, they are being extensively used by professional journalists today.

** The Kepler space telescope has retired from exoplanet finding after running out of station-keeping fuel. Here Robert Picardo pays tribute to a very successful mission: Farewell, Kepler – The Planetary Post with Robert Picardo


Telescopes and Binoculars at Amazon