Moonlight Over the Great Lakes

January 03, 2002


Provided by: Hank Brandli
Summary authors & editors: Hank Brandli; Jim Foster

This photo was taken on December 31, two days after the moon was full. Even though, moonless nights are preferred when observing city lights and aurora from space, a moonlit night can reveal nighttime lights and other features, such as snow cover. Buffalo was burried under about 8 feet of snow last week, and other areas in the Great Lakes region also received snow, although not near as much as Buffalo. The darkest areas on the photo are snow free. Brighter areas are snow and clouds (grayish areas), which readily reflect the moonlight. Note that the Great Lakes are largely cloud covered.

The USAF Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) spacecraft, operating from about 450 miles above Earth, view the entire Earth every six hours. Of all the weather satellites in orbit, only the DMSP has a low light sensor capable of capturing images at night with and without moonlight. These satellites can observe a number of phenomena including city lights, auroras, erupting volcanos, lightning, fires, gas flares (from oil fields) and meteor showers. The DMSP spacecraft view the portion of the electromagnetic spectrum from 0.4 to 1.1 microns, basically the visible and the near-infrared wavelengths.

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