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10 wildfires as seen from space

By: Katherine Butler on June 3, 2012, 3:23 p.m.
bushfires in southeast Australia on March 14, 2009


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As the world burns

NASA’s Earth-observing satellites have circled our globe for more than a decade, providing pertinent information about wildfires around the planet. Why is NASA pointing its lens back at Earth in search of fire? Firefighters use the information to battle fires, while scientists look at fires’ impact on climate and ecosystems. Two of the flagship Earth-observing satellites are Terra and Aqua, which have circled the planet for the past 10 years. NASA says these satellites have “detected more than 40 million actively burning fires and observed nearly 10 billion acres of charred land during tens of thousands of orbits.”

Pictured here are bushfires in southeast Australia on March 14, 2009. The photo was taken by the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) onboard NASA’s Terra satellite. The brown, burned areas contrast with the red of the vegetation left by a deadly brush fire east of Churchill, Victoria. (Text: Katherine Butler)