NASA Releases Stunning New Images Showing Clouds of Dust Swirling Around the Earth
There's a hundred different ways to look at the Earth, from heat maps to magnetic imaging, but one dimension that's particularly surreal is a map of aerosols across the planet. NASA has recently released a set of images that help us visualize the sea salt, black carbon, and dust currently swirling through the planet's atmosphere, and the results reveal as much about the Earth as much as they do about its inhabitants.
According to the official NASA post: "Even if the air looks clear, it is nearly certain that you will inhale millions of solid particles and liquid droplets. These ubiquitous specks of matter are known as aerosols, and they can be found in the air over oceans, deserts, mountains, forests, ice, and every ecosystem in between." Even if we can't see them, NASA's satellites can pick them up while orbiting Earth, creating a map of their densities across the planet. These satellites, named Terra, Aqua, Aura, and Suomi, used mathematical models aided by data from the Goddard Earth Observing System Forward Processing (GEOS FP) rather than directly observing the particles, similar to how weather forecast models predict the behavior of weather patterns.
The images show sea salt twisting around in the atmosphere around hurricanes and typhoons in the Pacific, black carbon from forest fires in Africa and North America, and dust blowing across the Sahara the the Middle East. Apart from identifiable sources (like seasonal agricultural burning in Africa), there are also more ethereal aerosol patterns, like the wisps of sea salt moving across the Southern Hemisphere's oceans. All of these aerosol patterns represent a single snapshot of what was going on August 23rd, and create an interesting mosaic of the forces at work on Earth.
If you want to check out more cool photos of Earth, check out some of these hyper-detailed images from some more of NASA's satellites.
Image Credits (images link to original source): NASA Earth Observatory images by Joshua Stevens, using GEOS data from the Global Modeling and Assimilation Office at NASA GSFC.