Energy Essentials

  • Released Tuesday, August 17th, 2010
  • Updated Thursday, September 2nd, 2010 at 12:00AM


Energy. What do we really know about it? Where does the energy we use come from? How does energy flow through the systems of our planet? How is our energy consumption changing our climate? Who uses the most energy?

In celebration of Earth Science Week's 2010 theme, Exploring Energy, NASA presents a multimedia gallery that helps answer some of these questions. The images, data visualizations, animations and videos in this gallery highlight how NASA satellite data and research help us better understand how much is reaching Earth from the Sun, how it's distributed across the Earth, where humans are tapping into that energy, and the many ways in which our energy use is transforming our planet.

You can download the imagery in a variety of formats directly from this site. For more multimedia resources on energy and other topics, search the Scientific Visualization Studio. To learn more about Earth Science Week 2010, visit the Earth Science Week web site.

Energy Everywhere

Energy drives everything from from local weather on the scale of hours to days, to global climate on the scale of years to decades. It fuels the growth of plants on land and powers currents in the ocean. This section looks at some of the ways we can use, study, and understand the energy all around us on Earth.

Energy from the Sun

The Sun is our planet's main energy source. It's the major power supply for weather and climate, ocean currents, growing plants, and, by extension, even animals like us. The visuals in this section show us how NASA science helps understand the amount of energy that strikes the Earth and how its distribution changes with the seasons.

Energy Harnessed by Humans

In our endless quest for new energy resources, people develop new technologies to harness the power of the Sun, the wind, tides, ocean heat, and fossil fuels. These images and visualizations show us some of the many ways humans are tapping into energy resources on Earth.

The Fossil Fuel/Climate Change Connection

When we burn fossil fuels, we release greenhouse gases that warm our planet. Less well understood is how significant those changes will be, and scientists use NASA data to study how climate change will alter oceans, atmosphere, land, and life, including human life. This section explores the connection between fossil fuel energy use and our changing climate.

Who Consumes More Energy?

NASA gathers and analyzes data about resource consumption by constantly monitoring the chemical and other by-products of agriculture, industry, and transportation. Satellites such as Aqua, Aura, and Terra take measurements from fires, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and other pollutants, and scientists can map the output on the globe.