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Exploring Earth from Space for Free

The beautiful images of Earth returned from space always fill me with awe and wonder. When the space elevator is up and running, first-hand experience of the 'astronaut's-eye-view' of Earth will be the main visual image people will retain once back on Terra Firma.

We don't have to wait to see stunning shots of near-real-time events since the European Space Agency (ESA) put up the
MERIS Images RApid VIsualisation (MIRAVI) web site offering two-hour-old images of fires, floods and volcanic eruptions etc. from the world’s largest Earth Observation satellite, Envisat, ESA's polar-orbiting Earth observation satellite.

is free and requires no registration to view the images generated from the raw data collected by Envisat’s optical instrument, MEdium Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MERIS), and provides them online within two hours and also provides a searchable archive of images taken since May 2006.

The site comes with a bit of a disclaimer: "
Although the images are fascinating and provide the marvellous feeling that users are ‘onboard the satellite’, they are not suitable for scientific use. Scientists use MERIS products that exploit the instrument’s 15 spectral bands and are generated with sophisticated algorithms. MIRAVI images use only a few spectral bands processed to appear the way the naked eye would see them."

Technical Note: I couldn't get the MIRAVI site to work in FireFox although it worked well in Internet Explorer. Non-technical types may find the interface a bit daunting and it takes a few steps to actually view an image but the results are well worth it. --PB--

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