In my last post I talked about how knowing the science behind a picture makes it better. I still say that’s true, but also, sometimes, the beauty and awe of a picture can speak for itself.
Behold, swirls of sea ice off the coast of Greenland:
Breathtaking, isn’t it? [Click to phasechangenate.]
This was taken by NASA’s Aqua satellite on October 16, 2012. Aqua is designed to observe Earth’s water cycle: the oceans, evaporation, clouds, precipitation, snow cover, and, obviously, sea ice. It takes a vast amount of energy to move water from the ocean into the atmosphere and then move it around the planet, energy which comes from sunlight and steered by the Earth’s spin. Observations like those of Aqua show us how the constituents of the atmosphere change how that transport occurs, how that energy is stored, and how we humans affect that with our grand experiment of adding carbon dioxide to the air. That also affects our environment, how plants and animals eat, drink, live, and die.
We are animals, too, and we live in this environment created by sunlight, air, water, ice, and our own actions.
I am awed and moved when I see images like the one above. Its beauty is transcendent, and was made possible by our curiosity, our desire to learn more about the world we live in - an urge so strong we invented science, and engineering, and then built satellites that can look back at us from space and show us how surpassingly beautiful our world is, and how we need to take care of it.
Hmmm. I suppose I was wrong at the beginning of this post. Sometimes the picture doesn’t always speak for itself. It still helps to know the how and why of it. When you do, the picture speaks with far more authority, import, and wide-ranging impact.
Image Credit: NASA/GSFC/Jeff Schmaltz/MODIS Land Rapid Response Team