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First images from new Landsat satellite capture northern Colorado Front Range

Friday, March 22nd, 2013 10:51am MDT

For four decades Landsat satellites have beamed back amazing pictures of the Earth from their perch far above the planet’s surface.  The latest craft in the series was launched last month and among the first images it captured were pictures of the area around Fort Collins and the Galena Fire burn scar.

The Landsat Data Continuity Mission took to space on February 11 to continue the joint program between NASA and the USGS.  This latest spacecraft has some of the highest resolution imagery devices of any Earth-observing satellite and will allow the agencies to monitor the natural and human processes taking place on the planet.

This week NASA released some of the first images from the new craft including its ‘Image of the Day’ from the Earth Observatory program on Thursday.  The photos capture the northern Colorado Front Range in natural color and one showing wavelengths of light not seen by the human eye.  The city of Fort Collins is clearly seen as is the Galena Fire burn scar west of Horsetooth Reservoir.

Below the images are further explanation from NASA.

landsat1.jpg

Made with reflected red, green, and blue light, the image from the Landsat Data Continuity Mission shows Fort Collins as the human eye would see it. (NASA)

landsat2.jpg

The image from the Landsat Data Continuity Mission shows the Fort Collins area in wavelengths of light not usually visible to people. Plants are green, city areas are purple, snow is pale blue, and bare earth is tan-pink. . (NASA)

From NASA:

On March 18, 2013, the newly launched Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM) began to send back images of Earth from both of its instruments—the Operational Land Imager (OLI) and the Thermal Infrared Sensor (TIRS). This view of Fort Collins, Colorado, is among the satellite’s first images.

The images above are close-up views from the OLI sensor at its maximum resolution of 15 meters per pixel. The top image displays natural color, while the second image blends shortwave infrared, near-infrared, and green wavelengths (LDCM bands 7, 5, 3). The close-ups were cropped from larger Landsat scenes (downloadable beneath each web image) that show where the Great Plains meet the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains in Wyoming and Colorado.

“The first OLI and TIRS images look great right out of the box,” said Jim Irons, LDCM project scientist. “I have waited a long time to view the first LDCM images and I could not be more impressed with their appearance.”

Made with reflected red, green, and blue light, the top image shows Fort Collins as the human eye would see it. The city is a gray grid surrounded by the curving roads and brown yards of residential neighborhoods. White clouds cast black shadows on the ground below. Land freshly burned in the Galena fire is charcoal black—just slightly darker than the dark green coniferous forest to its west.

The second image shows Fort Collins in wavelengths of light not usually visible to people. Plants are green, city areas are purple, snow is pale blue, and bare earth is tan-pink. This combination of visible and infrared light reveals features of the landscape not otherwise visible. For example, irrigated parks, yards, and golf courses are bright green in this image, but brown in natural color. The Galena Fire burn scar is dark red and easy to distinguish from its surroundings.

The Landsat Data Continuity Mission was launched on February 11, 2013, to continue the four-decade-long Landsat record of Earth’s landscapes. LDCM represents an evolutionary advancement in technology from previous Landsat sensors, collecting more data daily and with greater fidelity. The imagers also include two new bands to improve the view of clouds and near-shore waters.

LDCM’s normal operations are scheduled to begin in late May 2013, after the instruments have been calibrated and the spacecraft has been fully checked out. At that time, NASA will hand over control of the satellite to the U.S. Geological Survey, and the satellite will be renamed Landsat 8.

Read more about LDCM and its imagery in the NASA story: A Closer Look at LDCM’s First Scene.

 

 

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