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Emily LakdawallaDecember 22, 2015

December solstice: Viewing Earth's seasonal shifts from space

It's fun to watch the seasons shift from space. One of the best ways to do that is from a geostationary weather satellite. Parked over Earth's equator, a satellite like Himawari-8 sees the terminator tilt this way and that with the shifting of the seasons while the continents sit still. (That's Australia at the bottom of the images.)

Shifting seasons viewed from Himawari-8

Himawari JMA

Shifting seasons viewed from Himawari-8
Himawari-8 is a geostationary satellite parked over the western Pacific Ocean. These six images were captured a month apart from July to December 2015 and show how the terminator (night/day boundary) shifts over the course of an Earth year.

This year, we have a new way to regularly look at Earth from space: DSCOVR. Sitting between Earth and the Sun, it has quite a different perspective on Earth's shifting seasons. On the left, in northern hemisphere summer, Antarctica is invisible and Australia is pretty far south on the disk. As you go right and summer comes to the southern hemisphere, Australia marches up close to the middle of the disk, and Antarctica reveals itself at the bottom of the globe.

Shifting seasons viewed from DSCOVR

NASA

Shifting seasons viewed from DSCOVR
Six images taken approximately a month apart since DSCOVR's arrival at the Sun-Earth L1 point show how Earth's axial tilt affects the view from the Sun. The images were taken on July 23; August 24; September 23; October 22; November 23; and December 16, 2015. In July, the Sun doesn't "see" Antarctica; by December, the summer Sun shines on most of the continent continuously.

Neat, huh? If you want to play with DSCOVR images from your part of the globe, go to the DSCOVR EPIC website and play around with dates and times. Himawari-8, being geostationary, only ever gives its fixed point of view on Earth; if you want to see something other than Australia and eastern Asia, you'll need to check out other geostationary satellites, like GOES East and West and Meteosat.

Read more: Earth observing missions, pretty pictures, Earth

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Emily Lakdawalla

Senior Editor and Planetary Evangelist for The Planetary Society
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