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Spinning Around the Globe: Free Computer App Delivers Satellite Imagery

A new computer application gives users a satellite view of the Earth in countless combinations

A new computer application gives users a satellite view of the Earth in countless combinations

With Raytheon's VIIRS View, users can swoosh over storm patterns emerging above Antarctica or zoom in on fishing fleets lined up off the coast of Japan at night. They can compare the relationship between chlorophyll in the ocean and continental shorelines.

VIIRS View provides a glimpse into the type of data meteorologists and climatologists use every day to track the weather and monitor the Earth’s environment. All of the data was generated by the Raytheon-built Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite currently flying aboard the NOAA/NASA Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (NPP) spacecraft. Suomi NPP serves as the precursor to the next generation weather and environmental forecasting Joint Polar Satellite System.

VIIRS View is available for free on Raytheon's VIIRS download page.

Users can change the levels of each dataset by adjusting the bars under tiny globes at the bottom of the screen. They can zoom in by clicking, or get more information by selecting the "i" icon.

VIIRS collects data in 22 bands of the electromagnetic spectrum, providing critical information that can help improve planning, and reduce costs, associated with major weather events. VIIRS View illustrates three of these data sets:

Visible Imagery

Visible light imagery is essential for understanding the state of our global environment. Beyond the land masses and oceans, the most obvious daylight feature is cloud coverage. Cloud patterns give meteorologists not only a sense of current weather conditions at a specific location, but what the weather will be like several hours, or days, from now, as storms develop over the oceans and move across land.

Visible Imagery Photo

Suomi NPP orbits the Earth approximately 14 times each day, covering virtually the entire surface of the planet in each 24-hour period. The visible light image shown on VIIRS View is a composite of data obtained during the autumnal equinox in 2012.

Low-light Imagery

VIIRS’ “day-night band” establishes a new baseline for nighttime Earth imagery. Using extremely sensitive, specially calibrated sensing technology, it is able to detect objects roughly 100 times dimmer than the previous space instruments, while providing six times better spatial resolution. The day-night band clearly illuminates ground terrain, clouds, fog, ice and water with as little as a quarter moon illumination.

Low-light Imagery Photo

Since the launch of Suomi NPP in 2011, scientists have been using this data more and more to track weather around the clock, providing for more accurate, and more timely, forecasts. It’s also proved valuable for disaster monitoring and response teams who can, for instance, assess the extent of regional power outages via high fidelity nighttime images. The image used in VIIRS View was developed by NASA as part of their Black Marble series.

Chlorophyll Concentration

Chlorophyll concentration provides an indication of phytoplankton in the oceans, seas, lakes and rivers. Phytoplankton are single-celled algae and other plant-like organisms that, like plants on land, use chlorophyll to create photosynthesis.

Chlorophyll Concentration Photo

Finely tuned space sensors like VIIRS are able to detect chlorophyll in the water because of the unique way it reflects and absorbs sunlight. By mapping the amount and location of phytoplankton, scientists gain valuable insight into the cyclical evolution of the ocean environment. The chlorophyll map in VIIRS View was produced from data collected in spring 2012.

For more than 40 years, Raytheon’s innovative environmental sensing, processing, visualization and decision support solutions have helped meteorologists better track severe weather events, monitor global climate patterns and maintain the historical record of atmospheric and oceanic conditions.

Published: 07/03/2014

Last Updated: 01/14/2016

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