Space

Satellite captures amazing 6,000-mile-long panorama from orbit

Global image showing the swath of land captured by NASA's Land Data Continuity Mission as it orbited the Earth (Photo: Robert Simmon/Jesse Allen/US Geological Survey/NASA)
Global image showing the swath of land captured by NASA's Land Data Continuity Mission as it orbited the Earth (Photo: Robert Simmon/Jesse Allen/US Geological Survey/NASA)
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Global image showing the swath of land captured by NASA's Land Data Continuity Mission as it orbited the Earth (Photo: Robert Simmon/Jesse Allen/US Geological Survey/NASA)
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Global image showing the swath of land captured by NASA's Land Data Continuity Mission as it orbited the Earth (Photo: Robert Simmon/Jesse Allen/US Geological Survey/NASA)
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WRS 170-021 is centered at 55.9 S, 50.5 E (Photo: NASA)
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WRS 170-021 is centered at 55.9 S, 50.5 E (Photo: NASA)
WRS 170-022 is centered at 54.5 S, 49.7 E (Photo: NASA)
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WRS 170-022 is centered at 54.5 S, 49.7 E (Photo: NASA)
WRS 170-023 is centered at 53.1 S, 49.0 E(Photo: NASA)
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WRS 170-023 is centered at 53.1 S, 49.0 E(Photo: NASA)
WRS 170-024 is centered at 51.7 S, 48.4 E(Photo: NASA)
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WRS 170-024 is centered at 51.7 S, 48.4 E(Photo: NASA)
WRS 170-025 is centered at 50.3 S, 47.8 E(Photo: NASA)
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WRS 170-025 is centered at 50.3 S, 47.8 E(Photo: NASA)
WRS 170-026 is centered at 48.9 S, 47.2 E(Photo: NASA)
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WRS 170-026 is centered at 48.9 S, 47.2 E(Photo: NASA)
WRS 170-027 is centered at 47.5 S, 46.6 E (Photo: NASA)
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WRS 170-027 is centered at 47.5 S, 46.6 E (Photo: NASA)
WRS 170-028 is centered at 46.0 S, 46.1 E(Photo: NASA)
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WRS 170-028 is centered at 46.0 S, 46.1 E(Photo: NASA)
WRS 170-029 is centered at 44.6 S, 45.5 E(Photo: NASA)
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WRS 170-029 is centered at 44.6 S, 45.5 E(Photo: NASA)
WRS 170-030 is centered at 43.2 S, 45.0 E(Photo: NASA)
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WRS 170-030 is centered at 43.2 S, 45.0 E(Photo: NASA)
WRS 170-031 is centered at 41.8 S, 44.6 E(Photo: NASA)
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WRS 170-031 is centered at 41.8 S, 44.6 E(Photo: NASA)
WRS 170-032 is centered at 40.3 S, 44.1 E(Photo: NASA)
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WRS 170-032 is centered at 40.3 S, 44.1 E(Photo: NASA)
WRS 170-033 is centered at 38.9 S, 43.7 E (Photo: NASA)
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WRS 170-033 is centered at 38.9 S, 43.7 E (Photo: NASA)
WRS 170-034 is centered at 37.5 S, 43.2 E(Photo: NASA)
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WRS 170-034 is centered at 37.5 S, 43.2 E(Photo: NASA)
WRS 170-035 is centered at 36.1 S, 42.8 E (Photo: NASA)
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WRS 170-035 is centered at 36.1 S, 42.8 E (Photo: NASA)
WRS 170-036 is centered at 34.6 S, 42.4 E (Photo: NASA)
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WRS 170-036 is centered at 34.6 S, 42.4 E (Photo: NASA)
WRS 170-037 is centered at 33.2 S, 42.0 E(Photo: NASA)
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WRS 170-037 is centered at 33.2 S, 42.0 E(Photo: NASA)
WRS 170-038 is centered at 31.8 S, 41.6 E(Photo: NASA)
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WRS 170-038 is centered at 31.8 S, 41.6 E(Photo: NASA)
WRS 170-039 is centered at 30.3 S, 41.2 E(Photo: NASA)
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WRS 170-039 is centered at 30.3 S, 41.2 E(Photo: NASA)
WRS 170-040 is centered at 28.9 S, 40.8 E(Photo: NASA)
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WRS 170-040 is centered at 28.9 S, 40.8 E(Photo: NASA)
WRS 170-041 is centered at 27.4 S, 40.5 E (Photo: NASA)
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WRS 170-041 is centered at 27.4 S, 40.5 E (Photo: NASA)
WRS 170-042 is centered at 26.0 S, 40.1 E (Photo: NASA)
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WRS 170-042 is centered at 26.0 S, 40.1 E (Photo: NASA)
WRS 170-043 is centered at 24.6 S, 39.8 E(Photo: NASA)
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WRS 170-043 is centered at 24.6 S, 39.8 E(Photo: NASA)
WRS 170-044 is centered at 23.1 S, 39.4 E (Photo: NASA)
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WRS 170-044 is centered at 23.1 S, 39.4 E (Photo: NASA)
WRS 170-045 is centered at 21.7 S, 39.1 E(Photo: NASA)
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WRS 170-045 is centered at 21.7 S, 39.1 E(Photo: NASA)
WRS 170-046 is centered at 20.2 S, 38.7 E(Photo: NASA)
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WRS 170-046 is centered at 20.2 S, 38.7 E(Photo: NASA)
WRS 170-047 is centered at 18.8 S, 38.4 E (Photo: NASA)
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WRS 170-047 is centered at 18.8 S, 38.4 E (Photo: NASA)
WRS 170-048 is centered at 17.4 S, 38.1 E(Photo: NASA)
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WRS 170-048 is centered at 17.4 S, 38.1 E(Photo: NASA)
WRS 170-049 is centered at 15.9 S, 37.8 E(Photo: NASA)
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WRS 170-049 is centered at 15.9 S, 37.8 E(Photo: NASA)
WRS 170-050 is centered at 14.5 S, 37.4 E(Photo: NASA)
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WRS 170-050 is centered at 14.5 S, 37.4 E(Photo: NASA)
WRS 170-051 is centered at 13.0 S, 37.1 E(Photo: NASA)
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WRS 170-051 is centered at 13.0 S, 37.1 E(Photo: NASA)
WRS 170-052 is centered at 11.6 S, 36.8 E (Photo: NASA)
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WRS 170-052 is centered at 11.6 S, 36.8 E (Photo: NASA)
WRS 170-053 is centered at 10.1 S, 36.5 E(Photo: NASA)
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WRS 170-053 is centered at 10.1 S, 36.5 E(Photo: NASA)
WRS 170-054 is centered at 8.7 S, 36.2 E (Photo: NASA)
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WRS 170-054 is centered at 8.7 S, 36.2 E (Photo: NASA)
WRS 170-055 is centered at 7.2 S, 35.9 E (Photo: NASA)
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WRS 170-055 is centered at 7.2 S, 35.9 E (Photo: NASA)
WRS 170-056 is centered at 5.8 S, 35.5 E(Photo: NASA)
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WRS 170-056 is centered at 5.8 S, 35.5 E(Photo: NASA)
WRS 170-057 is centered at 4.4 S, 35.2 E(Photo: NASA)
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WRS 170-057 is centered at 4.4 S, 35.2 E(Photo: NASA)
WRS 170-058 is centered at 2.9 S, 34.9 E(Photo: NASA)
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WRS 170-058 is centered at 2.9 S, 34.9 E(Photo: NASA)
WRS 170-059 is centered at 1.5 S, 34.6 E(Photo: NASA)
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WRS 170-059 is centered at 1.5 S, 34.6 E(Photo: NASA)
WRS 170-060 is centered at 0.0 S, 34.3 E (Photo: NASA)
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WRS 170-060 is centered at 0.0 S, 34.3 E (Photo: NASA)
WRS 170-061 is centered at -1.4 S, 34.0 E(Photo: NASA)
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WRS 170-061 is centered at -1.4 S, 34.0 E(Photo: NASA)
WRS 170-062 is centered at -2.9 S, 33.7 E(Photo: NASA)
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WRS 170-062 is centered at -2.9 S, 33.7 E(Photo: NASA)
WRS 170-063 is centered at -4.3 S, 33.4 E(Photo: NASA)
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WRS 170-063 is centered at -4.3 S, 33.4 E(Photo: NASA)
WRS 170-064 is centered at -5.8 S, 33.1 E(Photo: NASA)
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WRS 170-064 is centered at -5.8 S, 33.1 E(Photo: NASA)
WRS 170-065 is centered at -7.2 S, 32.8 E(Photo: NASA)
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WRS 170-065 is centered at -7.2 S, 32.8 E(Photo: NASA)
WRS 170-066 is centered at -8.7 S, 32.5 E (Photo: NASA)
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WRS 170-066 is centered at -8.7 S, 32.5 E (Photo: NASA)
WRS 170-067 is centered at -10.1 S, 32.2 E(Photo: NASA)
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WRS 170-067 is centered at -10.1 S, 32.2 E(Photo: NASA)
RS 170-068 is centered at -11.5 S, 31.8 E(Photo: NASA)
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RS 170-068 is centered at -11.5 S, 31.8 E(Photo: NASA)
WRS 170-069 is centered at -13.0 S, 31.5 E(Photo: NASA)
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WRS 170-069 is centered at -13.0 S, 31.5 E(Photo: NASA)
WRS 170-070 is centered at -14.4 S, 31.2 E(Photo: NASA)
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WRS 170-070 is centered at -14.4 S, 31.2 E(Photo: NASA)
WRS 170-071 is centered at -15.9 S, 30.9 E(Photo: NASA)
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WRS 170-071 is centered at -15.9 S, 30.9 E(Photo: NASA)
WRS 170-072 is centered at -17.3 S, 30.6 E (Photo: NASA)
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WRS 170-072 is centered at -17.3 S, 30.6 E (Photo: NASA)
WRS 170-073 is centered at -18.8 S, 30.2 E(Photo: NASA)
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WRS 170-073 is centered at -18.8 S, 30.2 E(Photo: NASA)
WRS 170-074 is centered at -20.2 S, 29.9 E(Photo: NASA)
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WRS 170-074 is centered at -20.2 S, 29.9 E(Photo: NASA)
WRS 170-075 is centered at -21.6 S, 29.6 E(Photo: NASA)
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WRS 170-075 is centered at -21.6 S, 29.6 E(Photo: NASA)
WRS 170-076 is centered at -23.1 S, 29.2 E(Photo: NASA)
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WRS 170-076 is centered at -23.1 S, 29.2 E(Photo: NASA)
The near polar orbit of NASA's LCDM (Image: NASA)
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The near polar orbit of NASA's LCDM (Image: NASA)
Global image showing the swath of land captured by NASA's Land Data Continuity Mission as it orbited the Earth (Photo: Robert Simmon/Jesse Allen/US Geological Survey/NASA)
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Global image showing the swath of land captured by NASA's Land Data Continuity Mission as it orbited the Earth (Photo: Robert Simmon/Jesse Allen/US Geological Survey/NASA)
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Global image showing the swath of land captured by NASA's Land Data Continuity Mission as it orbited the Earth (Photo: Robert Simmon/Jesse Allen/US Geological Survey/NASA)
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Global image showing the swath of land captured by NASA's Land Data Continuity Mission as it orbited the Earth (Photo: Robert Simmon/Jesse Allen/US Geological Survey/NASA)

NASA has captured the world's largest panoramic photo showing a swath of land 6,000 miles long and 120 miles wide using a satellite orbiting 438 miles (705 km) above the Earth. At 19.06 gigapixels, "The Long Swath” is far from the highest resolution panorama on record, falling well short of the 320 gigapixel panorama of London, but it is without question the longest, covering an area from northern Russia to South Africa.

Revealing the immense diversity of climates on our planet's surface, the composite image is made up of 56 still images taken during the Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LCDM) satellite's orbit on April 19, 2013.

Strategically photographed so as not to contain large areas of boring water, the resolution is between 15 and 100 meters depending on the light band used. NASA’s LDCM scanned the surface of the Earth while traveling at over 17,000 miles per hour (27,359 km/h), which allowed it to take the shots in just 20 minutes.

Launched as a joint mission of NASA and the US Geological Survey (USGS) on February 11, 2013, the LDCM's key mission objectives are to monitor human expansion, rural agricultural production and the state of infrastructure to aid in urban planning, disaster recovery and energy and water management.

The LDCM takes measurements in the visible, near infrared and short wave infrared portions of the spectrum using the Operational Land Imager (OLI), which captures images with 49 ft (15 m) panchromatic and 98 ft (30 m) multi-spectral spatial resolutions along a 115 mile (185 km) wide swath. This allows it to cover wide areas of the Earth's surface at sufficient resolution to distinguish features like urban centers, farms, forests and other land uses. The entire Earth will fall within view once every 16 days due to the LDCM’s near-polar orbit.

The near polar orbit of NASA's LCDM (Image: NASA)
The near polar orbit of NASA's LCDM (Image: NASA)

Data is collected in strips or paths that are divided into smaller scenes for indexing and storage at the USGS. The beginning, middle and end of those scenes are prearranged to correspond to scenes collected by Landsat 4, Landsat 5, and Landsat 7 and are cataloged in a path-row system called the Second World-wide Reference System (WRS).

The LDCM is technically still in its calibration and checkout phase and the images shown here and in the panorama are considered test data. If all goes well, the satellite will be handed over to USGS at the end of this phase later this month and be renamed Landsat 8. At that time the satellite will be fully operational and data will be available freely over the Internet.

Landsat 8 will then ensure the continued acquisition and availability of Landsat data for a further planned 5.25 years. It has however, enough fuel on board to keep it operational for upwards of ten years.

You can view the interactive panorama below, download the full Google Earth KLM file or watch the flyover video that appears below the image. Some of the images that come together to form the panorama can be viewed in the gallery.

Sources: NASA, GigaPan

Landsat Data Continuity Mission: The Long Swath

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