Image via YouTube video screengrab
SeaWiFS orbiting sensor was a major player in understanding vegetation on earth in that it provided huge amounts of data about Earth's bodies of water by detecting color changes, as well as simply tracking how "green" the earth is on both land and water. From 1997 through 2010, it showed how plantlife grew and declined seasonally and over years, and that information has become a valuable part of understanding how life -- and even weather -- functions on our planet. SeaWiFS was lost on December 11, 2010, but NASA has made a great video about its contribution to science. Check out the short but sweet tribute.
Earth Observatory writes:
SeaWiFS was designed to measure ocean color. This seemingly narrow measurement captures the fundamental biological activity at the ocean surface, the blooming and die-off of the phytoplankton that form the center of the oceanic food web. Its abundance is a direct indicator of the seas' ability to support life. It also plays a central role in the oceans' carbon uptake. SeaWiFS also was used to offer real-time monitoring of red tides and other harmful algae, which can bloom in polluted waters and be deadly to fish and oysters.
Modifications made to SeaWiFS before launch also allowed it to make a similar kind of measurement of plant color on land. This ability to see all of the planet's plant life with a single, well-calibrated instrument produced a first-of-its-kind snapshot of the Earth's biosphere in 1998, similar to the image above.
Gene Carl Feldman notes, "Many people said it would never get off the ground; some said it wouldn't last a year. The mission was planned for five years. We got 13 years of incredible data out of this amazing little satellite."
That's an incredible feat.
Follow Jaymi on Twitter for more stories like this
More on Satellites
Ocean's Color Can Change Hurricane Patterns
Laser and Satellite Technology Maps How Much Carbon the Amazon Rainforests Can Hold
Blue Water Satellite Scans Toxic Algae Blooms From Space
NASA's Glory Satellite Will Study the Climate Impact of Atmospheric Aerosols