Landsat 9, a joint mission between NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) that launched Sept. 27, 2021, has collected its first light images of Earth.
The images, all acquired Oct. 31, are available online. They provide a preview of how the mission will help people manage vital natural resources and understand the impacts of climate change, adding to Landsat’s unparalleled data record that spans nearly 50 years of space-based Earth observation.
“Landsat 9’s first images capture critical observations about our changing planet and will advance this joint mission of NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey that provides critical data about Earth's landscapes and coastlines seen from space,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “This program has the proven power to not only improve lives but also save lives. NASA will continue to work with USGS to strengthen and improve accessibility to Landsat data so decision makers in America – and around the world – better understand the devastation of the climate crisis, manage agricultural practices, preserve precious resources and respond more effectively to natural disasters.”
These first light images shows Detroit, Michigan, with neighboring Lake St. Clair, the intersection of cities and beaches along a changing Florida coastline and images from Navajo Country in Arizona that will add to the wealth of data helping us monitor crop health and manage irrigation water. The new images also provided data about the changing landscapes of the Himalayas in High Mountain Asia and the coastal islands and shorelines of Northern Australia.
Landsat 9 is similar in design to its predecessor, Landsat 8, which was launched in 2013 and remains in orbit, but features several improvements. The new satellite transmits data with higher radiometric resolution back down to Earth, allowing it to detect more subtle differences, especially over darker areas like water or dense forests. For example, Landsat 9 can differentiate more than 16,000 shades of a given wavelength color; Landsat 7, the satellite being replaced, detects only 256 shades. This increased sensitivity will allow Landsat users to see much more subtle changes than ever before.
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