On Monday 27 September, the Landsat 9 satellite was launched from Vandenberg Space Force Base in southern California. Since 1972, the Landsat mission — a joint effort by NASA and the USGS — has been collecting images of the earth from an orbit approximately 700km above our planet. The data collected thus far on Earth’s forests, oceans, farms, cities, and polar ice caps is the longest satellite record of its kind with nearly 50 years of data and more than nine million images. All Landsat data and images are free to use and publicly available.
The Landsat 9 satellite intends to add to this archive in order to help researchers and decision makers better understand Earth and the changes it is experiencing. Once the satellite is operational, it will add approximately 700 new images each day. The advanced imaging tools on board will enable researches to monitor deforestation, melting glaciers, water consumption of plants and crops, and water levels in lakes and streams.
Equipped with two primary instruments — the Operational Land Imager 2 (OLI-2) and the Thermal Infrared Sensor 2 (TIRS-2) — the Landsat 9 captures scenes across a swath that is 185 kilometers (115 miles) wide as it orbits the globe. Each pixel in these images is 30 meters across, or roughly the size of a baseball infield. The instruments collect images of Earth’s landscapes in visible wavelengths as well as in near and shortwave (reflected) infrared wavelengths, and thermal infrared wavelengths.
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