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Planetary Paparazzi: 10 Vital Views of Earth [Slide Show]

Icelandic eruptions, oil spills, deadly heat: NASA's Terra satellite has captured spectacular views of such dramatic events, documenting our planet's ever-changing visage since the satellite's five sensors saw "first light" 10 years ago

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SMALLER BY THE DECADE

Once the fourth-largest lake in the world, the Aral Sea is now all but extinct. Terra's MODIS sensor has documented the sea's shrinkage since 2000, when the lake was already a fraction of its 1960 extent because of a massive irrigation project that has diverted water away from the sea for decades [ left ].....[ More ]

DEADLY HEAT WAVE

During the height of a deadly heat wave on August 4, 2003, Europe emitted as much heat as the Sahara Desert in northern Africa did. This image is from Terra's Clouds and the Earth's Radiant Energy System (CERES) sensor, which takes stock of the quantity of solar energy the planet's atmosphere and surface absorbs as well as how much infrared and heat energy it radiates back into space.....[ More ]

STREAMING POLLUTION

Monitoring concentrations of atmospheric carbon monoxide—in this case, over eastern China and the Pacific Ocean—allows scientists to observe both the sources and transport of pollution on a global scale.....[ More ]

ERUPTION IN ICELAND

Terra’s MODIS sensor also captured this image of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano as it continued to emit a dense plume of ash and steam on May 7, 2010. And just as the MISR team was able to track the smoke plume from the Station Fire, it used a series of images from multiple angles to measure the height of the volcano’s ash cloud and the concentration of particles in the plume.....[ More ]

WILEY WILDFIRE

California’s Station Fire, the largest in the recorded history of Los Angeles County, spread aggressively during the morning hours of August 30, 2009, the day Terra’s MODIS instrument acquired this image.....[ More ]

GULF OF MEXICO OIL SLICK

Terra's MODIS sensor can also capture photolike images, such as this view of an oil slick lurking not far from the Mississippi Delta on the morning of May 10, 2010.....[ More ]

STUNTED STORAGE

How much carbon land plants store during photosynthesis, a measure known as net primary productivity, changes from season to season. That explains why the Northern Hemisphere was so much "greener" in August 2009 [ top ] than in March 2010 [ bottom ].....[ More ]

SICKENING BLOOMS

Terra's ASTER sensor captured this view of filaments of blue-green algae swirling across Guatemala's Lake Atitlán on November 22, 2009. Such algal blooms are not only harmful to people and animals but can also trigger dead zones in the lake—areas in the water so devoid of oxygen that they cannot support aerobic life.....[ More ]

ELEVATING LANDSCAPES

This view of the Los Angeles Basin, looking northwest toward the San Gabriel Mountains, is a simulated natural-color image draped over digital topography, both from Terra's Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER).....[ More ]

THE BLUE MARBLE

This iconic image leads the legacy of NASA's Terra satellite, a flagship of the agency's Earth-observing fleet. Now in its 10th year of monitoring the land, oceans, sea ice and clouds, Terra tracks environmental change like a doctor monitors a patient's vital signs.....[ More ]

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