Spaceflight Now: Breaking News

Los Alamos fire imaged by NASA's Terra satellite
Posted: May 20, 2000

  Los Alamos
Los Alamos, New Mexico. Photo: NASA/GSFC/JPL, MISR Science Team
The fire that has raged out of control this month near Los Alamos, New Mexico, was captured in a series of images by the Multi-angle Imaging Spectro-Radiometer (MISR) on NASA's Terra satellite.

These true-color images covering north-central New Mexico capture the bluish-white smoke plume of the Los Alamos fire, just west of the Rio Grande river. The middle image is a downward-looking or "nadir" view taken by MISR. As the satellite flew from north to south, the instrument viewed the scene from nine different angles. The top image was taken by the MISR camera looking 60 degrees forward along its orbit, whereas the bottom image looks 60 degrees aft.

The fire plume stands out more dramatically in the steep-angle views. Its color and brightness also change with angle. By comparison, a thin, white water cloud appears in the upper right portion of the scene, and is most easily detected in the top image.

MISR scientists use these angle-to-angle differences to monitor particulate pollution and to identify different types of haze. Such observations allow scientists to study how airborne particles interact with sunlight, a measure of their impact on Earth's climate system. The images are about 400 km (250 miles) wide. The spatial resolution of the nadir image is 275 meters (300 yards); resolution is 1.1 kilometers (1,200 yards) for the off-nadir images. North is toward the top.

MISR is managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology, for NASA' s Office of Earth Science, Washington, D.C. The Terra satellite is managed by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.