As the Earth-observing Landsat satellite zooms high above our heads, it records a continuous ribbon of the planet below. It is our ever-vigilant watchdog, sending back imagery since 1972 that is used by people working in agriculture, geology, forestry, peacekeeping, regional planning and land-use change.
The video below was taken by Landsat, a joint program run by NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey, on April 19 over the course of around 20 minutes. It shows the satellite’s recording of a swath of Earth 5,665 miles long from the extreme northern latitudes of Russia down to the southern tip of Africa. Landsat was actually traveling at 16,800 mph and the video’s creators sped that up to to the equivalent of nearly 22,000 mph to adjust the clip’s length.
If you don’t want to see the full overflight below, NASA has made a highlights clip that comes in at under four minutes.
Top Image: A still from an animation showing the Landsat Data Continuity Mission working in its orbit. Courtesy NASA.
The world is awash in antibiotics. We take them to fight off the bacteria that mean to colonize us. We feed them to animals to prevent the outbreak of disease in densely packed factory-farming operations. Even many of our cleaning and body care products, controversially, now contain them.
But many antibiotics don’t get fully metabolized within humans or animals and, through excretion, find their way into waste and surface waters. It’s a major environmental concern whose full ecological implications still aren’t clear.
And the problem creates a vicious cycle. Evolution gives our microbial adversaries the strategic advantage—the ability to adapt to our weapons and render them harmless. So we engage in a microscopic arms race, battering increasing numbers of antibiotic-resistant bugs with more and more drug compounds to keep them at bay.
So you could call it a small case of poetic justice when researchers figure out how to use the cellular machinery that renders some bacteria drug-resistant to reclaim antibiotics from contaminated water.
The harvest season seems to whiz by every year in northern latitudes. Just as the time comes to sink a fork into early spring’s peppery locally grown lettuce and asparagus, the market’s crates are already brimming with winter squash. And the juicy tomatoes that yesterday took a quick ride from a nearby farm start logging thousands of miles from farm to table.
Unfortunately, the only two options for most consumers looking to buy fresh produce during the cold months are either to get them shipped from warmer regions or from greenhouses closer by. Efficiencies in the agricultural and shipping systems being what they are, fruits and vegetables grown in warmer climes—by necessity picked before they ripen to prevent spoilage in transit—cost less than premium-priced food from the greenhouse.
Either way, each of those February cucumbers is the product of a significant energy investment—whether it’s producing the fertilizer, burning fuel in shipping, or lighting and heating commercial greenhouses.
In Florida, it’s already time to strap a swimsuit on and hit the beach. For the rest of the country, balmy days and cooling dips are just around the corner.
For those who love the water, an advanced and rapid test developed by the EPA offers some piece of mind that they won’t be diving into polluted water off the nation’s beaches. The technique can report within four hours if bacteria are present in salt or fresh water at levels that require beach closures, a significant improvement over the full day present methods take.
“We have found very high variation in the amount of bacteria present in recreational waters from day to day,” says Meredith Nevers, a research ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey who verified the new test’s efficacy. “The standard test takes a sample on a day when everyone might be swimming in contaminated water. The results come back the next day and they close the beach, when the problem might have already cleared up.”