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Headshot of Emily Lakdawalla

December solstice: Viewing Earth's seasonal shifts from space

Posted By Emily Lakdawalla

22-12-2015 10:12 CST

Topics: Earth observing missions, pretty pictures, Earth

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


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.

See other posts from December 2015


Read more blog entries about: Earth observing missions, pretty pictures, Earth


judy: 12/23/2015 03:42 CST

Pardon the ignorance, but, can you tell me why the view of the moon in the transit photos appears quite dark? Is it filtered, somehow...? Or, is that the true reflectivity of the farside, or...? I love the seasonal pics., btw. This should help me explain them to my granddaughter.

ToSeek: 12/23/2015 04:49 CST

I believe that it's really that dark - the Moon has a very low albedo compared with the Earth.

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