Al Gore finally got something done. Remember those pictures we used to get as children, such as “Can you spot the cow in this picture?” Well, Al Gore finally succeeded in creating one of those.
Can you see the devastating effects of climate change? Can you spot the #poisonedweather that the “Forecast The Facts” eco-zealots are always wailing about on Twitter?
Gore said in an Atlantic interview this week:
Gore said that, seeing the first picture on Monday, he felt gratitude to everyone who worked to put the craft into orbit. Be he also “felt something of the same emotion that I felt when I saw the first Blue Marble photo 42 and a half years ago, when I saw the first Earthrise image just four years prior to that.”
“It’s not an accident that that first image, called Earthrise, led to the passage of major environmental laws in the United States during the presidency of Richard Nixon, nor is it a coincidence that the first Earth Day was organized less than a year and a half after that first picture was seen. It changed, that picture changed, the way we thought about ourselves and our relationship to the Earth,” said Gore.
Yep, it’s all about the emotion, science takes a backseat in Gore’s mind.
Readers may recall Al’s big plan to get a satellite to take pictures of the Earth regularly:
The satellite’s original purpose was to provide a near-continuous view of the entire Earth and make that live image available via the Internet. Gore hoped not only to advance science with these images, but also to raise awareness of the Earth itself, updating the influential The Blue Marble photograph taken by Apollo 17.
The New York Times said in 2006:
Scientists had dreamed of such an observatory for years. They hoped Mr. Gore’s influence would make it happen. Mr. Gore’s support would end up destroying it. Those who hated him, hated Triana. His dream of inspiring environmentalists and schoolchildren served only to trivialize the project. It was ridiculed as “Gore’s screen saver.”
Indeed.Today, after Goresat being shelved for over a decade, at the NYT they write:
Now, the Deep Space Climate Observatory, or Dscovr for short, will be taking such photographs on a regular basis, always over the dayside of Earth. The first was released on Monday.
The spacecraft started out as “Triana,” a pet project of former Vice President Al Gore in 1998 who thought it would be inspirational and educational for a satellite to continually send back a view of a changing Earth from almost a million miles away. Opponents derided it as “GoreSat,” and the finished spacecraft was put in storage.
It was resurrected by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to look the other way, at the sun, to serve as a sentinel of oncoming solar storms.
Well in addition to sending back pretty pictures of Earth every so often, the GoreSat has been re-purposed to do some actual solar science. From the mission page:
The Deep Space Climate Observatory, or DSCOVR, will maintain the nation’s real-time solar wind monitoring capabilities which are critical to the accuracy and lead time of NOAA’s space weather alerts and forecasts. Without timely and accurate warnings, space weather events like the geomagnetic storms caused by changes in solar wind have the potential to disrupt nearly every major public infrastructure system, including power grids, telecommunications, aviation and GPS.
DSCOVR will succeed NASA’s Advanced Composition Explore’s (ACE) role in supporting solar wind alerts and warnings from the L1 orbit, the neutral gravity point between the Earth and sun approximately one million miles from Earth. L1 is a good position from which to monitor the sun, because the constant stream of particles from the sun (the solar wind) reaches L1 about an hour before reaching Earth.
From this position, DSCOVR will typically be able to provide 15 to 60 minute warning time before the surge of particles and magnetic field, known as a coronal mass ejection (or CME), associated with a geomagnetic storm reaches Earth. DSCOVR data will also be used to improve predictions of geomagnetic storm impact locations. Our national security and economic well-being, which depend on advanced technologies, are at risk without these advanced warnings.
Here is the NASA press release on the new “blue marble” image”
A NASA camera on the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) satellite has returned its first view of the entire sunlit side of Earth from one million miles away.
The color images of Earth from NASA’s Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC) are generated by combining three separate images to create a photographic-quality image. The camera takes a series of 10 images using different narrowband filters — from ultraviolet to near infrared — to produce a variety of science products. The red, green and blue channel images are used in these Earth images.
“This first DSCOVR image of our planet demonstrates the unique and important benefits of Earth observation from space,” said NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden. “As a former astronaut who’s been privileged to view the Earth from orbit, I want everyone to be able to see and appreciate our planet as an integrated, interacting system. DSCOVR’s observations of Earth, as well as its measurements and early warnings of space weather events caused by the sun, will help every person to monitor the ever-changing Earth, and to understand how our planet fits into its neighborhood in the solar system.”
These initial Earth images show the effects of sunlight scattered by air molecules, giving the images a characteristic bluish tint. The EPIC team now is working on a rendering of these images that emphasizes land features and removes this atmospheric effect. Once the instrument begins regular data acquisition, new images will be available every day, 12 to 36 hours after they are acquired by EPIC. These images will be posted to a dedicated web page by September.
“The high quality of the EPIC images exceeded all of our expectations in resolution,” said Adam Szabo, DSCOVR project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “The images clearly show desert sand structures, river systems and complex cloud patterns. There will be a huge wealth of new data for scientists to explore.”
The primary objective of DSCOVR, a partnership between NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Air Force, is to maintain the nation’s real-time solar wind monitoring capabilities, which are critical to the accuracy and lead time of space weather alerts and forecasts from NOAA.
“These new views of the Earth, a result of the great partnership between NOAA, the U.S. Air Force, and NASA, give us an important perspective of the true global nature of our spaceship Earth,” said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
The satellite was launched in February and recently reached its planned orbit at the first Lagrange point or L1, about one million miles from Earth toward the sun. It’s from that unique vantage point that the EPIC instrument is acquiring science quality images of the entire sunlit face of Earth. Data from EPIC will be used to measure ozone and aerosol levels in Earth’s atmosphere, cloud height, vegetation properties and the ultraviolet reflectivity of Earth. NASA will use this data for a number of Earth science applications, including dust and volcanic ash maps of the entire planet.
In addition to space weather instruments, DSCOVR carries a second NASA sensor — the National Institute of Science and Technology Advanced Radiometer (NISTAR). Data from the NASA science instruments will be processed at the agency’s DSCOVR Science Operations Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. This data will be archived and distributed by the Atmospheric Science Data Center at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.
The Air Force provided the Space X Falcon 9 rocket for the mission. NOAA operates DSCOVR from its Satellite Operations Facility in Suitland, Maryland, and processes the space weather data at its Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, Colorado.
NASA uses the vantage point of space to increase our understanding of our home planet, improve lives, and safeguard our future. NASA develops new ways to observe and study Earth’s interconnected natural systems with long-term data records. The agency freely shares this unique knowledge and works with institutions around the world to gain new insights into how our planet is changing.