Monday, April 29, 2013

I Spy: Space Edition

The first mission to the International Space Station, a habitable artificial satellite orbiting four hundred kilometers above the Earth's surface, launched over twelve years ago. Since then, astronauts have taken an astonishing million plus photographs of their home planet. So what happens to all these photos?

Turns out they're all archived on NASA's servers and are available to the public for view. Nathan Bergey combed through that archive and pulled the location for all of those 1,129,177 photos. He's created an incredible visual with this data:

Each dot represents the location of a photo.
 This visualization of the data ends up depicting the basic shapes of the continents, which makes sense as astronauts tended to take pictures of where they were from. Nathan comments that, "Coastlines, islands and cities seem to be popular targets...This makes sense, photos of clouds over an otherwise blank ocean get old after a while."

After creating this visualization, he ended up dividing the dots by mission:

Each color represents a different mission.

 If you're wondering why the purple dots seem to overwhelm the rest of the image, it's because Don Pettit took multiple time lapse sequences—each consisting of hundreds of images—on his mission. His images cause almost uninterrupted orbit lines while the rest of the dots seem to come in randomly. Fun fact: Don Pettit is solely responsible for almost half the images taken in orbit!

If you're interested in more data and what else NASA has to offer, check out, International Space Apps Challenges, and

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