Earth From Space': See The Planet Like Never Before - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Earth From Space': See The Planet Like Never Before

Posted: Updated:

YAHOO.COM - You may have seen pictures of our planet from space, but never quite like this. A new NOVA show on PBS, "Earth from Space," features amazing images captured by satellites used to observe the planet, and these pictures have given scientists a better view and understanding of the Earth than ever before. The NOVA program features photos, videos, computer models and other data that the show's creators have combined to create a comprehensive image of Earth's interconnected ecosystems.

OurAmazingPlanet caught up with NOVA senior executive producer Paula Apsell to hear more about the new program, which debuts Wednesday, Feb. 13, at 9 p.m. ET (8 p.m. Central) on PBS (check local listings).

OurAmazingPlanet: Tell us about the show.

Paula Apsell: There are more than 120 satellites used to capture images of the Earth. I think most people know that satellite technology exists and that satellites have improved weather predictions … But I don't think most people know how much satellite technology has helped us to understand our planet.

Satellites don't just see how we see, with optical light, but can [also] see in infrared and microwave light. Because they see in so many waves in the electromagnetic spectrum, they can get more info about the earth than our eyes can give us.

The question becomes, with all these satellites in space, what have we learned? The answer is fascinating and unpredictable. The big take-home lesson is that everything is interconnected — the air, the land, the water and light itself are all part of one big system that works together and [they all] feed into each other. It's really given us, and scientists, a whole new view of the planet.

Paula Apsell: There are more than 120 satellites used to capture images of the Earth. I think most people know that satellite technology exists and that satellites have improved weather predictions … But I don't think most people know how much satellite technology has helped us to understand our planet.

Satellites don't just see how we see, with optical light, but can [also] see in infrared and microwave light. Because they see in so many waves in the electromagnetic spectrum, they can get more info about the earth than our eyes can give us.

The question becomes, with all these satellites in space, what have we learned? The answer is fascinating and unpredictable. The big take-home lesson is that everything is interconnected — the air, the land, the water and light itself are all part of one big system that works together and [they all] feed into each other. It's really given us, and scientists, a whole new view of the planet.

OAP: How have satellites given scientists a new understanding of the Earth? 

PA: Well, for one, satellite imagery has shown us that studying any one thing in isolation isn't going to help you. You have to look at the planet as a system and see where these connections are.

OAP: Do you have any examples from the show of these connections?

PA:  There are a bunch of examples of how different processes from different parts of the Earth are connected. We show how, for example, hurricanes that end up in Florida and the Gulf Coast often start near the Cape Verde islands off the coast of northwest Africa.

We also show how a massive, underwater waterfall in the Antarctic affects ocean currents as far away as Peru, nourishing plankton and an enormous stock of fish there, which helps feed everybody on Earth.

OAP: Are there any other ways that physical processes ultimately affect humans?

PA: The sun gives us energy for life to be sustained, and for electricity. There's a satellite called the Solar Dynamics Observatory that can look at forces from the sun and help scientists understand them. It can also help predict solar storms, which can completely disrupt all of our electronics. It's a satellite that's directly helping us protect and preserve civilization.

Other satellites have shown us how dust that blows off from deserts in Africa helps nourish plant life in the Amazon rainforest, which functions as the lungs of the Earth. It takes in carbon dioxide we breathe out and provides us with oxygen. Also, these plants provide us with many products like medicines.

Would anybody suspect that dust particles from African deserts go all the way to South America, fertilizing the rain forest? Without satellite imagery, I think that would be completely counterintuitive.

OAP: Why have this show now?

PA: A lot of these satellites have been there for a long time. Some have gone past the number of years they were supposed to last. I think understanding the importance of satellites is key to people, because satellites don't last forever, and you have to replenish them.

We're at a point in time where, first of all, we're all profoundly affected by weather and climate change, and understanding scientific instruments that will let us know better what the future holds, that's important.

In some ways, it's a timeless show, but on the other hand, it's only now that scientists have enough satellites up there and enough computer power to have payoff in understanding these systems. The study of this is really reaching a certain mature level where you can actually say things about [the Earth]. That's the point at which NOVA feels it can tell stories.

OAP: What challenges did you face in making this program?

PA:  The challenge was visualizing it. Satellites record all parts of the electromagnetic spectrum, only a small part of which is visible. I think the great achievement is how beautiful it is.

Also constructing a narrative, that's always a challenge. Where do you start? We decided we'd start with hurricanes, because that's such an immediate threat. How do satellites visualize the formation of hurricanes? We show that in a lot of detail.

OAP: What do you want people to take away from this program?

PA: I hope people take away from it how important these satellites are and how important these instruments are that enable scientists to get a better idea of how the planet works. I hope it will help people understand the Earth's complexity and appreciate it more, see how fragile it is, and learn more about what we need to do to keep our planet healthy.

 

  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • BEAUTIFUL HOMES: Top 10 Most Expensive Homes For Sale In CDA

    BEAUTIFUL HOMES: Top 10 Most Expensive Homes For Sale In CDA

    Tuesday, March 25 2014 9:20 AM EDT2014-03-25 13:20:34 GMT
    KHQ.COM - When it comes to shopping around for a house, it's always fun to dream. We did a search for some of the most expensive homes for sale right now in the Coeur d' Alene area.>>
    KHQ.COM - When it comes to shopping around for a house, it's always fun to dream. We did a search for some of the most expensive homes for sale right now in the Coeur d' Alene area.>>
  • WATCH: Cell Phone Video Of Sinking Ferry Released As 270 Are Still Missing

    WATCH: Cell Phone Video Of Sinking Ferry Released As 270 Are Still Missing

    Friday, April 18 2014 4:21 PM EDT2014-04-18 20:21:35 GMT
    MOKPO, South Korea (AP) - Searchers have now put markers on the surface of the water where the South Korean ferry went down. Part of the ship had remained above the surface until today, but now the entire vessel is submerged. They're continuing the effort to find some 270 people who are missing and feared dead.>>
    MOKPO, South Korea (AP) - Searchers have now put markers on the surface of the water where the South Korean ferry went down. Part of the ship had remained above the surface until today, but now the entire vessel is submerged. They're continuing the effort to find some 270 people who are missing and feared dead.
    >>
  • Man Identified In Fatal Crash Friday Morning On Bowdish Rd.

    Man Identified In Fatal Crash Friday Morning On Bowdish Rd.

    Friday, April 18 2014 4:13 PM EDT2014-04-18 20:13:11 GMT
    SPOKANE, Wash. - The man killed in an early morning crash on Friday has been identified as 34-year-old, Alejandro E. Apodaca. Just before 12:30, Apodaca crashed his car on S. Bowdish Rd. He was traveling South on Bowdish near 17th when he lost control of his car, uprooting a tree in the front yard of a home.
    >>
    SPOKANE, Wash. - The man killed in an early morning crash on Friday has been identified as 34-year-old, Alejandro E. Apodaca. Just before 12:30, Apodaca crashed his car on S. Bowdish Rd. He was traveling South on Bowdish near 17th when he lost control of his car, uprooting a tree in the front yard of a home.
    >>
  • National NewsMore>>

  • Teen Suspended For Asking Miss America To Prom

    Teen Suspended For Asking Miss America To Prom

    Friday, April 18 2014 11:34 PM EDT2014-04-19 03:34:48 GMT
    YORK, Pa. (AP) — A Pennsylvania high school student is in hot water for asking Miss America to prom during a question and answer session at school. Eighteen-year-old Patrick Farves said he received three days of in-school suspension Thursday because he asked Nina Davuluri to prom.
    >>
    YORK, Pa. (AP) — A Pennsylvania high school student is in hot water for asking Miss America to prom during a question and answer session at school. Eighteen-year-old Patrick Farves said he received three days of in-school suspension Thursday because he asked Nina Davuluri to prom.

    >>
  • South Korean Ferry Captain Arrested As Hundreds Are Missing And Feared Dead

    South Korean Ferry Captain Arrested As Hundreds Are Missing And Feared Dead

    Friday, April 18 2014 4:38 PM EDT2014-04-18 20:38:53 GMT
    SEOUL, South Korea (AP) - South Korean news agency Yonhap reports that the captain of the South Korean ferry that sank two days ago has been arrested. Yonhap says 68-year-old Lee Joon-seok was detained early Saturday. The ship, the Sewol, sank Wednesday, leaving hundreds missing and feared dead.>>
    SEOUL, South Korea (AP) - South Korean news agency Yonhap reports that the captain of the South Korean ferry that sank two days ago has been arrested. Yonhap says 68-year-old Lee Joon-seok was detained early Saturday. The ship, the Sewol, sank Wednesday, leaving hundreds missing and feared dead.
    >>
  • WATCH: Cell Phone Video Of Sinking Ferry Released As 270 Are Still Missing

    WATCH: Cell Phone Video Of Sinking Ferry Released As 270 Are Still Missing

    Friday, April 18 2014 4:21 PM EDT2014-04-18 20:21:35 GMT
    MOKPO, South Korea (AP) - Searchers have now put markers on the surface of the water where the South Korean ferry went down. Part of the ship had remained above the surface until today, but now the entire vessel is submerged. They're continuing the effort to find some 270 people who are missing and feared dead.>>
    MOKPO, South Korea (AP) - Searchers have now put markers on the surface of the water where the South Korean ferry went down. Part of the ship had remained above the surface until today, but now the entire vessel is submerged. They're continuing the effort to find some 270 people who are missing and feared dead.
    >>