Remote Views

By John Conway | April 24, 2009 10:47 am

Inspired by Earth Day (and eerily in sync with Julianne!) I have been looking for good views of the planet from space. In fact, two nights ago my TV satellite provider Dish Network launched the Earth Channel, with a 24/7 view of the earth from the EchoStar 11 satellite. earth1.gifThere is also a video with a compressed 24 hour series of stills taken from the camera. At one point you see the moon passing behind the earth. Of course since it’s a TV satellite, it’s geosynchronous and you’ll only ever see the western hemisphere. As far as I can tell, though, you cannot get it online anywhere.

And this one is pretty cool. Even though the image is not very sharp, you can actually control a little web cam on a the Tate satellite, in polar orbit 400 km above the earth… Add a focus button!

I cannot seem to get NASA’s ISS webcam stream to work. Darn. Too popular? Not Mac compatible?

Sadly, Al Gore’s 1990’s vision of an Earth-viewing satellite, originally called Triana, and later renamed DSCOVR, sits in storage at Goddard, having been built but cancelled in 2006.

Speaking of which, it appeared for some time that a similar fate awaited Nobel Prize winner Sam Ting’s Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, designed to search for antimatter (antihelium nuclei, in fact) and other things in space. Construction of the $1.5 billion satellite was completed, and it awaits launch at CERN. An additional, final Space Shuttle mission, STS-134, was added to the 2010 NASA schedule. It was authorized by Congress in the fall but I am not sure if funding has been appropriated yet. (My money is on Sam Ting, though.)

Anyway, where are the cool views of our planet from space?

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Miscellany, Space
  • Ethan Siegel


    I did this for this Earth Day! Perhaps you could start here?

    Good luck!


  • Kevin Runnels

    I know the Sun gets a day every week (right after Saturday!), but thinking about the shots of the earth from space brought to mind one of my favorite sites.

  • changcho
  • IvanM

    “I cannot seem to get NASA’s ISS webcam stream to work.”

    It doesn’t work for me either at the moment. Could be capacity problems, as you suggest.

    I also use a Mac, and I’ve had success using mplayer and/or VLC ( to play the Windows Media version of their live TV stream. The Quicktime version of the stream has never seemed to work, even using the official Quicktime player. The Realplayer version works in mplayer (crashes VLC, for some reason) but is crappier than the Windows Media version.

    By the way, if you want to use an external player like VLC, you have to become a bit adept at extracting .asx/.asf links to feed to VLC (use VLC’s “Open Network” menu item, btw). In NASA’s case, you can see them inside the javascript: links (it helps if you have your browser’s status bar turned on so that you can see the content of links). They really ought to make it easier to use an external player– I’ll try sending them a comment about that.

  • Anonymous

    I wouldn’t bet against Ting either. Too bad AMS has no real scientific justification. It’s an example of a big ego backed by a Nobel Prize successfully bypassing normal peer review procedures to get a pet project funded.

  • rbooth

    I hate to tell you this, but it appears that the Tate satellite is (how can I put this kindly) fictional. See this webpage for an interview where the creator reveals all:

  • Pat

    I hope Ting get’s the shot and from what I’ve read about him, he has the chops to make it happen.

    An earlier commenter said, “Too bad AMS has no real scientific justification.” I disagree.

    If AMS does find anti-matter atoms, we would have a better understanding of symmetry-breaking in the early universe. I think more important, the AMS is also going to be detecting cosmic rays — collision events at much higher energies than the LHC.

    If the AMS detects no anti-matter atoms but does detect superpartners (or other speculated high-energy particles), that would be plenty of scientific justification. No anti-matter atoms, in and of itself, would also be an interesting find.

  • uncle sam

    This is supposed to be a good site for pics of Earth:
    But nothing (?) compares to the classic shot from Apollo 8 of Earth rising over the Moon’s horizon (remembering all that makes me feel old, as does my first vote for a Presidential candidate younger than me.) BTW, there doesn’t seem to be a big deal going on about the 40th anniversary of the first Moon landing (with inevitable argument over whether we should believe Neil Armstrong’s claim he said “One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”

  • Marshall Eubanks

    Start here

    and dig. Then there is EUMET sat

    This site gives whole Earth views from a variety of satellites :

  • Emily Lakdawalla

    Here’s a page I put together on all the views of Earth I could find, taken by spacecraft that were departing Earth entirely:

  • Marcos

    One of my favorites, Carl Sagan’s “Pale blue dot”

  • Wesley



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