Earth as Art: Stunning New Images of the Earth From Space [Big Picture]

The U.S. Geological Survey has released a new selection of particularly interesting images from the Landsat 5 and Landsat 7 satellites. These space craft have been prolific sources of data for earth scientist, but the new shots were chosen solely based on aesthetics.

The US Geological Survey has put together several collections called “Earth As Art.” They feature Landsat satellite images selected for their artistic quality, rather than for scientific reasons. The Landsat programme is a series of Earth-observing satellite missions jointly managed by NASA and the US Geological Survey.

“The collected images are authentic and original in the truest sense,” Matt Larsen, the USGS’s associate director for Climate and Land Use Change, said in a statement. “These magnificently engaging portraits of Earth encourage us all to learn more about our complex world.”

Since 1972, Landsat satellites have collected information about Earth from space. The images are presented in “false colour” – satellites use both visible and invisible parts of the electromagnetic spectrum. Near-infrared light is invisible to the human eye, but adding it to these images allows scientists to “see” the surface of the Earth in other than natural colours.

These images can be seen in a new exhibit at the Library of Congress, starting Tuesday, May 31. The U.S. Geological Survey’s “Earth as Art” will be on display in the exhibition hall outside the Geography and Map Reading Room, on the basement level of the James Madison Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C.

The exhibit, which is free and open to the public from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday, will remain on display at the Library for one year, until May 31, 2012.

The 40 award-winning Landsat satellite images will become a part of the permanent collection of the Library’s Geography and Map Division. In 2006, the division hosted an earlier “Earth as Art” exhibit and those images also became a part of the Library’s permanent collection.

Division chief John Hébert said “The Geography and Map Division is pleased, once again, to receive the exhibition for its permanent collection and to place it on display for an extended period of time.”

“Our patrons and staff enjoyed previous renderings of “Earth as Art,” and in my preliminary review, these new “Earth as Art” images will delight all. It is amazing to see how places on Earth from space do appear as art, and yet, at the same time, reflect the ever-presence of humankind in reshaping Earth’s appearance,” he added.

Landsat satellites for nearly 40 years have captured images of the Earth’s surface, providing data for applications in business, science, education, government and national security. The satellites monitor important natural processes and human land use such as vegetation growth, deforestation, agriculture, coastal and river erosion, snow accumulation, fresh-water reservoir replenishment and urbanization.

The U.S. Geological Survey selected images for the exhibit based on their aesthetic appeal rather than their scientific value. The Library’s Geography and Map Division has the largest and most comprehensive collection of maps and atlases in the world, some 5.2 million cartographic items that date from the 14th century to the present.

The Library’s map collections contain coverage for every country and subject, and include the works of the most famous mapmakers throughout history—Ptolemy, Waldseemüller, Mercator, Ortelius and Blaeu.

The Library of Congress, the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution and the largest library in the world, holds nearly 147 million items in various languages, disciplines and formats. The Library serves the U.S. Congress and the nation both on-site in its reading rooms on Capitol Hill and through its award-winning website at www.loc.gov. [EROS via Wired]

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