Sunday, February 5, 2012

Suomi NPP Producing Stunning Views

NASA has renamed its newest Earth-observing satellite in honor of the late Verner E. Suomi, a meteorologist at the University of Wisconsin who is recognized widely as "the father of satellite meteorology."

Verner Suomi pioneered remote sensing of Earth from satellites in polar orbits a few hundred miles above the surface with Explorer 7 in 1959 and geostationary orbits thousands of miles high with ATS-1 in 1966. He was best known for his invention of the "spin-scan" camera which enabled geostationary weather satellites to continuously image Earth, yielding the satellite pictures commonly used on television weather broadcasts. He also was involved in planning interplanetary spacecraft missions to Venus, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.

Suomi spent nearly his entire career at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where in 1965 he founded the university's Space Science and Engineering Center with funding from NASA. The center is known for Earth-observing satellite research and development. In 1964, Suomi served as chief scientist of the U.S. Weather Bureau for one year. He received the National Medal of Science in 1977. He died in 1995 at the age of 79.

The National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System Preparatory Project, or NPP, was renamed Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership, or Suomi NPP. The satellite is the first designed to collect critical data to improve short-term weather forecasts and increase understanding of long-term climate change.

 "Verner Suomi's many scientific and engineering contributions were fundamental to our current ability to learn about Earth's weather and climate from space," said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington." Suomi NPP not only will extend more than four decades of NASA satellite observations of our planet, it also will usher in a new era of climate change discovery and weather forecasting."

The Suomi NPP satellite is in a polar orbit around Earth at an altitude of 512 miles (about 824 kilometers), and is already producing stunning pictures. NASA scientist Norman Kuring managed to 'step back' from Earth to get the big picture by combining data from six different orbits of the Suomi NPP satellite. Or putting it a different way, the satellite flew above this area of Earth six times over an eight hour time period. Norman took those six sets of data and combined them into one image.

The perspective of the new Eastern hemisphere 'Blue Marble' is from 7,918 miles (about 12,743 kilometers).  Image Credit: NASA.

Two views have been created by NASA using this technique.  One is of the western hemisphere and the other of the eastern hemisphere.

Western Hemisphere.  Image Credit: NASA.

Eastern Hemisphere.  Image Credit: NASA.

Incredible high resolution versions are available from Suomi NPP webpage.  The close-up views are spectacular and would be a good tool for teachers.  You can catch other polar-orbiting views on the weather section of the WLTX website.  Just scroll down to the section on satellites and look for the Nexsat satellite images.