Someone to Watch Over You


Conservationist, marine biologist, and NatGeo Fellow Enric Sala and I drove to Dulles, Virginia on Friday to visit GeoEye headquarters. The company manages a fleet of Earth imaging satellites, including IKONOS and GeoEye-1, which traverse the globe from pole to pole every 90 minutes 423 miles (681 kilometers) overhead.


Both IKONOS and GeoEye-1 can scan any place on the planet at least once every three days at sub-meter resolutions … which is to say that if you’re outside, the weather’s clear, and the satellite’s turned your way, you would show up in the scan. If you’ve zoomed in close to the surface with Google Earth, you’ve likely seen imagery provided by GeoEye, since Google is one of the company’s biggest clients.

We were out to see if GeoEye could help with Enric’s next Ocean Now expedition as they did with the last one, when they turned one of their satellites and rescanned the remote southern Line Islands in the Pacific just days before fieldwork began, then worked with Google to get the new imagery “baked” into Google Earth’s default view.

With mountains of data streaming in from all around the world, the GeoEye staff enjoys a ringside seat on planet Earth. Much of what they see in the course of any given day is breathtaking; sometimes it’s news-making. A few examples (presented, even when clicked up large, at much lower resolution than the original data makes possible):

In the image at top above, Bearing Sea ice eddies with ocean currents past the cliffs of Cape Upright at the southern tip of Alaska’s St. Matthew Island.

The new Yankee Stadium rises just a home run away from its predecessor in the Bronx.


The pyramids of Khafre and Khufu, along with the Great Sphinx, brood over the Giza plateau near Cairo. (In the original full-size image, one might well be able to see the top of archaeologist, Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities secretary general, and NatGeo Explorer-in-Residence Zahi Hawass‘s trademark hat!)


The world’s largest radio telescope, 1,000 feet (305 meters) in diameter, scans the heavens at Arecibo, Puerto Rico.


GeoEye kindly offered up an ongoing stream of remarkable new Earth images for BlogWild. Stay tuned for more!


GeoEye satellite images courtesy GeoEye, satellite control room photographs by Ford Cochran

Changing Planet