The U.S. government's eye on the earth has just gotten LASIK.
Behold the historic first public image from NASA's new Earth-observing satellite NPP. (Here are larger versions.) The exquisitely detailed shot of eastern North America was acquired on Nov. 21, 2011, by the probe's Visible Infrared Imager Radiometer Suite, and then subjected to data processing at NOAA's satellite ops division in Suitland, Md.:
Image courtesy of NPP/JPSS Mission Team and NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio
NPP is zipping through space at more than 16,000 m.p.h., flexing its wide array of imaging instruments that scientists hope will improve our weather forecasts and understanding of climate change. Writes NASA:
VIIRS will collect radiometric imagery in visible and infrared wavelengths of the Earth's land, atmosphere, and oceans. By far the largest instrument onboard NPP, VIIRS weighs about 556 pounds (252 kilograms). Its data, collected from 22 channels across the electromagnetic spectrum, will be used to observe the Earth's surface including fires, ice, ocean color, vegetation, clouds, and land and sea surface temperatures.
For an idea of how much better imaging technology has gotten in the past decade, below is the first shot taken by the MODIS instrument aboard NASA's Terra satellite. It dates from 2000: