panorama at larger size

A few days ago Landsat 8 flew overhead for the first time. So we went up on Lookout Mountain to meet it halfway.



Popular questions:



Could you see the satellite?


No, it’s 400 miles up and the size of a van. We only went about 400 feet up. Though you really can watch satellites pass over when the sun reflects just right.



Could it see you?


Yes, but no. Landsats are designed to image almost all the Earth’s land surface at what they call medium resolution. Each pixel in a Landsat image represents about 30 by 30 meters, or the size of a baseball infield. Or in our case the H, the hillside logo for BHSU, which is white enough to appear as one bright pixel. (And that’s even blending the 15-meter “pan” band into the image.)


So yes, we are indeed in that image, but we make up a small part of the landscape that blends into one or two pixels. An irresolvable difference, you might say.



So . . . why did you go up there?


It was a great day for research in South Dakota. Landsat is the granddaddy of remote sensing, with a 40-plus year record of the Earth’s surface, and that record is archived here in South Dakota at USGS EROS. Landsat 8 is the first new Landsat in 14 years, and EROS played an expanded role in designing this satellite and its ground systems.


And that’s way more than we need for an excuse to take a hike. We had perfect weather, a nice lunch from the BHSU Alumni Association, and a beautiful view. And just at the moment the satellite passed over and shot Spearfish, we took our own picture of Spearfish, from a somewhat closer view:


Panorama small
(~3 MP)

Panorama large
(~100 MP)


Did you really take the picture just as the satellite was overhead, or did you fake it?


No, we really did. My camera says it took me just over two minutes to swing the camera around, from about 11:37 to 11:39, and EROS says Landsat 8 would have been overhead at 11:38:13 or so. Room for error is another nice feature of panoramas, a lovely old form coming back.



Do you have more pictures?


Yes– right now you can go to, and in the future you can watch for more exciting developments in Earth observation!




Some more files:


Photos hung in Google Earth, from behind and above.


One photo from the panorama, placed and traced to map its footprint.


Footprints for the whole panorama, prettied up.


Comment: robb at zoombackbaby