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Outreach EROS Overview

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Detailed Description

This is EROS.

It's located just north of Sioux Falls in South Dakota in the United States on the planet Earth!

EROS stands for Earth Resources Observation and Science. It's a federal government facility where over 600 talented women and men work together to capture, store, and study images of the Earth taken from high above. Our Earth is always changing, and understanding those changes over time is a big part of preserving natural resources around the world.

It all starts with a family of land-observing satellites we call Landsats. Their mission? To capture images of the Earth's surface. The first Landsat was sent into orbit in 1972 from this Air Force base in California. Since then, seven other Landsats have been launched. The earlier satellites are no longer active, but Landsat 7 and Landsat 8 continue their mission today. Landsat 9 is scheduled for launch in 2021.

Many satellites orbit around the belly of the Earth, like a hula hoop. But Landsats orbit near the north and south poles, like this, over 430 miles up. That's high, but it's actually considered a Low Earth Orbit when compared to other satellites. If you were the size of the Dakotas, you could jump up and reach one, but it might sting, because they're zipping around at over 17,000 miles per hour. At that altitude and speed, they can stay in sync with the sun as the Earth rotates. That means they capture imagery around the world with very consistent lighting.

You're probably wondering what Landsat images look like. Well here's a view of New York City. You can see the streets and buildings of Manhattan Island.  Here's Central Park. And the Statue of Liberty. Check out the boats in the bay!

Like the camera in a cellphone, Landsat sensors capture visible light. But they also capture wavelengths invisible to the human eye, called infrared, along with thermal views of the surface, which reveal hot and cold spots. This mixture of sensors gives us many ways to look at the Earth.

Landsats capture image data every day, but we can't use it until it's transmitted to receiving stations on the ground. There are 20 of them in 14 countries, working together to catch data with giant antennas, and deliver it to EROS over the internet. When the data arrives at EROS, it's checked for quality and held in a gigantic data archive full of storage drives and networking servers. The growing archive provides a safe home for almost 50 years of Landsat imagery, alongside aerial photographs, historical maps, imagery from other satellites, and other records.

The final step is the most important. The information in the EROS archive is used by... people! Scientists, land managers, educators and others use the archive to study wildfires, droughts, the growth of cities, flooding, farming activity, storms, disasters, and many other things. The imagery has even been used to create art that highlights the mysterious beauty of our planet.

A world of data is available to everyone, through tools developed by teams at EROS. You could use these tools to find your hometown. Here's Sioux Falls South Dakota. And here's Fargo, North Dakota. Is your home somewhere in one of these images? What other parts of Earth would you explore?

Thanks for watching. We hope you'll visit us in person at EROS, To learn more about EROS and the Landsat Satellite Program, visit us online at




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