Universe Painted in Light
In 1080p, enjoy the unusual visual style in this adaptation of the ground-breaking “Science on a Sphere” production, including depictions of Earth. From NASA and NOAA, with additional images from ESA Hubble.
We perceive light–we see it—but what we see and what it means are not the same. Without context, detail means nothing.
Oh, there are so many factors at play here: what wavelengths of light can we see, how well can our brains take what we see and turn it into something we understand?
And also, how do we compare ourselves to the thing we’re observing? What tools do we use to help us capture information? How do we turn light into data, data into pixels, pixels into meaning? Start with a planet.
For example, Earth. And as long as we’re at it, let’s tip the Earth to spin properly on its axis. Now, recall our original points of light. Our idea.
These are satellites in orbit. Satellites collect data as the Earth rotates beneath them.
Think of satellites as paint brushes working in reverse: instead of painting planets with light, satellites collect light reflected from planets below. With enough data we can paint a world.
Data that make this image come from instruments on two NASA satellites called AQUA and TERRA. These instruments see the Earth in what we might regard as “natural color.”
They can also see certain events as they happen. There, splattered like white paint on a blue canvas, something important: Hurricane Katrina.
These satellites are only two of many that can see hurricanes. The stripes you see building up come from a unique spacecraft called TRMM. Among the many remarkable things TRMM can do, it can look inside hurricanes like nothing else in the world.
See for yourself. TRMM sees the actual body of the beast in three dimensions. Orange and red zones indicate higher rainfall rates. Cloud spires called hot towers drive the storm’s greedy grab for energy.
The Earth changes. It breathes. And it surprises. Though we live on a planet largely c