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Seeing Photosynthesis From Space

NASA scientists have discovered a new way to use satellites to measure what's occurring inside Earth's land plants at a cellular level.

During photosynthesis, plants emit what is called fluorescence - a form of light invisible to the naked eye but detectable by satellites orbiting hundreds of miles above Earth. NASA scientists established a method to turn this satellite data into global maps of the subtle phenomenon in more detail than ever before.

The new maps - produced by Joanna Joiner of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., and colleagues - provide a 16-fold increase in spatial resolution and a 3-fold increase in temporal resolution over the first proof-of-concept maps released in 2011. Improved global measurements could have implications for farmers interested in early indications of crop stress, and ecologists looking to better understand global vegetation and carbon cycle processes.

"For the first time, we are able to globally map changes in fluorescence over the course of a single month," Joiner said. "This lets us use fluorescence to observe, for example, variation in the length of the growing season."

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     Fluorescence Visualizations in High-Resolution (id 4086)
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Duration: 2.9 minutes
Available formats:
  1920x1080 (59.94 fps) QT         5 GB
  1280x720 (59.94 fps) QT         2 GB
  1280x720 (29.97 fps) QT         106 MB
  640x360 (29.97 fps) QT         76 MB
  960x540 (29.97 fps) MPEG-4   83 MB
  640x360 (29.97 fps) MPEG-4   33 MB
  320x240 (29.97 fps) MPEG-4   18 MB
  1280x720 (29.97 fps) WMV         91 MB
  720x480 (29.97 fps) WMV         83 MB
  1920x1080 JPEG         735 KB
  960x540 (29.97 fps) WEBM         41 MB
  320x180     PNG           62 KB
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Animation Number:11317
Animators:Tyler Chase (UMBC)
 Greg Shirah (NASA/GSFC)
Video Editor:Kayvon Sharghi (USRA)
Interviewee:Joanna Joiner (NASA/GSFC)
Narration:Kayvon Sharghi (USRA)
Narrator:Kayvon Sharghi (USRA)
Producer:Kayvon Sharghi (USRA)
Scientist:Joanna Joiner (NASA/GSFC)
Videographer:Rob Andreoli (AIMM)
Writer:Kathryn Hansen (Wyle Information Systems)
Series:Narrated Movies
Goddard TV Tape:G2013-069 -- Seeing Photosynthesis From Space
Please give credit for this item to:
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
SVS >> Earth
DLESE >> Narrated
SVS >> Fluorescent Light
NASA Science >> Earth

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Many of our multimedia items use the GCMD keywords. These keywords can be found on the Internet with the following citation:
Olsen, L.M., G. Major, K. Shein, J. Scialdone, S. Ritz, T. Stevens, M. Morahan, A. Aleman, R. Vogel, S. Leicester, H. Weir, M. Meaux, S. Grebas, C.Solomon, M. Holland, T. Northcutt, R. A. Restrepo, R. Bilodeau, 2013. NASA/Global Change Master Directory (GCMD) Earth Science Keywords. Version logo - the U.S. Government's official Web portal. + Privacy Policy and Important Notices
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