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Google's GeoEye-1 Takes Its First Pictures 152

Posted by timothy
from the seattle's-beauty-would-damage-the-sensors dept.
Kev92486 writes "I was scanning through my RSS feeds today and happened upon an article about Google's GeoEye-1 imaging satellite which launched on Sept 6. Intrigued as to what the quality of the image was like, I decided to check it out only to find that the first picture was actually of my college campus, Kutztown University (Pennsylvania).
I had to make sure I was reading the article correctly as Kutztown is not a very large or well known campus. I'm not sure as to why they chose Kutztown for their first pictures. I would be interested if anybody could provide some sort of insight as to what process was used to select the first test location. Was the satellite simply in a convenient orbit to snap pictures of Kutztown?"
Update: 10/09 20:56 GMT by T : HotHardware has its own article up on GeoEye-1, if you'd like your words and pictures in the same place.
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Google's GeoEye-1 Takes Its First Pictures

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  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohnNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday October 09, 2008 @04:18PM (#25319755) Journal

    I had to make sure I was reading the article correctly as Kutztown is not a very large or well known campus. I'm not sure as to why they chose Kutztown for their first pictures. I would be interested if anybody could provide some sort of insight as to what process was used to select the first test location. Was the satellite simply in a convenient orbit to snap pictures of Kutztown?

    Maybe you could explain this close up image [pcworld.com] of your campus? (It's from the lower right of the article's image)

    Don't be coy, we all saw the lead up to this in the papers earlier this year [imageshack.us]. Kutztown's had this coming--it was one thing to invite Putin to talk but when he left those trailers, that was too far.

    On a serious note, I'm certain they picked Kutztown based on the following:

    Let P denote the number of lawyers a university has on reserve.

    Let Q denote the number of lawyers Google has on reserve.

    Let R denote said university's reserve resources for emergencies.

    Let L be a function such that L(x) = the number of lawyers one can immediately hire with x dollars.

    Is P + L(R) Q? Then I think we have a candidate! I found it on Google Scholar.

  • Kutztown? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 09, 2008 @04:27PM (#25319925)

    Kutztown

    Gesundheit!

    • Kutztown Kutztown Kutztown. Kutztown? Kutztown Kutztown Kutztown Kutztown, Kutztown Kutztown! Kutztown, Kutztown Kutztown: Kutztown.

      Kutztown?

      Lameness filter encountered.
      Your comment violated the "postercomment" compression filter. Try less whitespace and/or less repetition.

  • mirror (Score:5, Informative)

    by Exstatica (769958) * on Thursday October 09, 2008 @04:28PM (#25319959) Homepage
    this is probably gonna hurt but here goes anyway http://mirrors.mednor.net/slashdot/10092008/geoeye-1-kutztown.jpg [mednor.net]
  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohnNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday October 09, 2008 @04:33PM (#25320051) Journal
    Sooo, Kev92486, how are the *squints eyes and leans closer to his LCD screen* Golden Bears doin' this year?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 09, 2008 @04:35PM (#25320079)

    It bothers me that the tennis courts are not equally spaced. Can they fix that and take another picture?

  • by SamMichaels (213605) on Thursday October 09, 2008 @04:38PM (#25320131)

    I think they were aiming for the First United Church of Kutztown, but the coordinates were off. Rumor has it the abbreviation is written on the roof.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I think they were aiming for the First United Church of Kutztown, but the coordinates were off. Rumor has it the abbreviation is written on the roof.

      Abbreviation? So Fstuntdchurkutz? Confusing but thank god they didn't put their acronym on the roof though!

    • by zooblethorpe (686757) on Thursday October 09, 2008 @05:10PM (#25320579)

      My father-in-law got his undergrad education at Friends University of Central Kansas. No joke. I'd even just settle for a sweatshirt with the big "F.U." in the middle.

      (It's even funnier in some respects when you know that "Friends" here refers to the Quakers. :)

      Cheers,

      • by Pontiac (135778)

        My Cousins went to Ball State University.
        http://cms.bsu.edu/

        My Father in Law loves the BSU hat we got him.

  • by ckotchey (184135) on Thursday October 09, 2008 @04:42PM (#25320169) Homepage

    Even more curious to me is why Google Earth still has such a low-res image of Green Bay, WI (Packers!!), but I can see Cochranton, PA (population: a few dozen or so) clear as crystal. Go figure.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Even more curious to me is why Google Earth still has such a low-res image of Green Bay, WI (Packers!!), but I can see Cochranton, PA (population: a few dozen or so) clear as crystal. Go figure.

      Note: Resolution is directly proportionate to intelligence per capita. Having worked "Packers!" into every single one of your discussions your entire life has left you devoid of intelligence and full of beer & cheese, hasn't it? However I'm sure you've managed to mate with another manatee and spread your seed to annoy the hell out of other states with your dumbass unfounded allegiance to one of football's most mediocre teams.

      How's Brett?

    • by Zadaz (950521) on Thursday October 09, 2008 @05:04PM (#25320511)

      Could be any number of things. My farm in rural Iowa is at such a low resolution that it's difficult to make out large buildings. (And it's obviously reconstructed form false color images. Probably less than 30m resolution.

      However a mile to the west there's a huge strip of very high resolution images. ~0.5m resolution. Why? It just so happens that there is a large wind farm going up in that strip of land. It seems that the wind farm company paid for a high resolution survey of the area and that just got added to the data pile. Until someone wants to see what yet another soybean farm looks like, I'm SOL. (Which is too bad because I'd really like to see how the crops are doing from a few thousand miles away.)

    • by Joe Tie. (567096)
      I'm moving to a fairly large sized town that is actually split right in two with google earth/maps. The eastern side of town is horrible quality, and the left is normal. Which is a little annoying given that it's only a few hours drive away from one of google's offices. I really hope this winds up filling up some of the nearly dead spaces.
    • As I understand it, Google used what was available (and cheap) when they were starting up the service. If something had been of interest to someone ELSE there'd be higher resolution imagery available.

      For quite a while my rural retirement house in Nevada had a very low resolution picture of the construction site from years before. Then Steve Fossett disappeared after taking off from a place a half-hour's drive away and google upgraded the imagery of the area to help with the search. The new pics are not a

  • go outside, write your question and your email address on a poster, and point it skyward

    then go inside and wait for a reply in your inbox

    if you don't like google's answer, go outside, and stick your middle finger up to the sky

    • by Gazzonyx (982402)
      Too bad I didn't know about this... I would have done it. That shot is a mile or two from my apartment and I'm the secretary of the Kutztown Technology Association and the president of the Kutztown Linux Group :) It's unfortunate that they didn't show the whole town. It only extends a mile to the north... that road in the middle is Main Street; small town, lots of corn fields. But an awesome little Main Street.
  • by FunkyELF (609131) on Thursday October 09, 2008 @04:56PM (#25320395)
    Wikipedia says that the GeoEye-1 [wikipedia.org] was supposed to be in Sun-synchronus orbit [wikipedia.org]... but look at the shadow on the water tower
    • by NameIsDavid (945872) on Thursday October 09, 2008 @05:07PM (#25320537)
      Is there something wrong with the angle? Sun-synchronous orbit means that each time the satellite appears over that same university campus, it will do so at the same time of day. So, unless you see multiple shadow angles implying that the image was taken over multiple passes and that the shadow angle changed with each pass, I don't see what's specifically unimpressive about the orbit. Can you explain your observation?
      • From my reading of the Wikipedia article (and this is my introduction to sun-synchronous orbit, so I could be wrong), the neat part is that wherever the satellite is overhead, it's at the same point in time.

        Again from Wikipedia, GeoEye-1's orbit is 10:30 am sun-synchronous...I think those shadows look like about 10:30 AM in the autumn.

        • From my reading of the Wikipedia article (and this is my introduction to sun-synchronous orbit, so I could be wrong), the neat part is that wherever the satellite is overhead, it's at the same point in time. Again from Wikipedia, GeoEye-1's orbit is 10:30 am sun-synchronous...I think those shadows look like about 10:30 AM in the autumn.

          Congratulations, Sherlock. It is Autumn. FTA:

          GeoEye-1 was launched Sept. 6 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and has been going through calibration and check-o

          • It's Autumn in the northern hemisphere. Last I checked, the satellite is orbiting the entire planet. The southern hemisphere's seasons are...uh...what's the word? Oh yeah: completely opposite.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by SpleenVenter (976034)
          Sun-synchronous orbits are extremely common for optical imaging satellites. A sun-synchronous orbit simply means that the satellite crosses the equator at a specific time of day on every orbit. The sun-synch time can be chosen at will; you can make it any time that you want. If you choose noon, you get very short shadows; if you choose a time early or late in the day, you'll get long shadows. The length of the shadows at any give spot the Earth (away from the equator) changes with the season (because the
    • by speroni (1258316)

      Just because it is sun synchronus doesn't mean it is directly below the sun. It could be sun synchronus with an off set angle.

      If it was directly in line with the sun, the glare from bodies of water would be pretty intense.

    • You can only take photos without shadows at one point on the earth at any given time: specifically, the area immediately around where your satellite's shadow is projected onto the earth. Sun-synchronous orbit just reduces the number of shadows you're likely to see, unless you're always imaging directly downwards. This picture is taken north west of the satellite's shadow, so the buildings have shadows too.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    ... on google maps and if so how long will it take?

  • Fairly Random (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 09, 2008 @04:56PM (#25320405)

    The actual image collected was a 16 km wide swath cut through PA and part of New York. The swath was chosen based on timing and that it would be fairly close to nadir. As for why Kutztown in particular, I'll ask around, but I think it was basically just something interesting to look at(read:not trees). The calibration and focus were probably pretty good at that point in the image too. Keep in mind this is literally the very first image from the satellite, using preliminary calibration and focus, with the color bands aligned by hand. The imagery from this satellite is going to be exceptional once everything is said and done.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by jcr (53032)

      The swath was chosen based on timing and that it would be fairly close to nadir.

      I think you mean perigee [wikipedia.org] not nadir [wikipedia.org].

      -jcr

      • Re:Fairly Random (Score:5, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 09, 2008 @05:14PM (#25320627)

        The swath was chosen based on timing and that it would be fairly close to nadir.

        I think you mean perigee [wikipedia.org] not nadir [wikipedia.org].

        -jcr

        Nope I meant nadir

        The nadir angle is basically how far to the side the satellite is pointing from its ground track. The farther off nadir the more you're looking at the sides of buildings and trees vs. the top. You're generally off a bit, but anything above 30 starts to get useless for most things.

  • More info on the sat (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Bearhouse (1034238) on Thursday October 09, 2008 @05:23PM (#25320741)

    Since there's nothing interesting in TFA

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GeoEye_1#GeoEye-1 [wikipedia.org]

    *end oblig wikipedia karma-whoring*

    • by inKubus (199753)

      Man if they can do 41cm for $200M, imagine what the expensive ones can do.

    • Wikipedia says the satellite also produces 1.65 meter multispectral imagery. I wonder if that is available publicly (without space-high fees) and how to go about getting hold of it?

      (Back in the late '60s and early '70s I was working on multispectral recognition and mapping programs to process aircraft, Skylab, and ERTS/Landsat data. Missed renewing my ham license due to a rush project hacking up a "clustering" algorithm to come up with a recognition map for a hunk of Italy for which we had data but no "gr

  • Playing catch up... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by I.M.O.G. (811163) <spamisyummy@gmail.com> on Thursday October 09, 2008 @05:29PM (#25320825) Homepage

    This was the one feature that maps.live.com had over google maps - they had this clarity before Google did, and they also offer the birds eye view which gives you an angled perspective rather than straight down.

    I'm glad Google now offers something similar as I like their service much better. In all fairness however, it should be acknowledged that Google was beat to the punch by Microsoft on this.

    • I'll second that, I first encountered bird's eye view while in London last summer and it's an order of magnitude better than plain-old top-down view because when (for example) you exit a tube station and are trying to find the large Forbidden Planet shop you tracked down on the map can you see:

      a) The roofs of all the buildings around you?
      b) The sides of all the buildings around you?

      The answer (unless you've gotten off at Lilliput and Castle) is b).

      I think the next evolution of this tech woul

  • Lot of Andre Reed fans out there at Google, I guess.

  • Does anyone else notice that the colors (of say vegetation) bleed from one shape to the other? I might be deceiving myself, since I know the color and contrast images were taken at different resolutions.

    It kinda reminds me of Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky's pseudo-color photos [wikipedia.org] of Imperial Russia.

  • Talk about a specific fetish.

  • Owning a satellite to take images that are already available through other sources seems a tad wasteful.

    What else are they going to do? Are they positioning themselves to sell the images to other people/governments?

    • I'd say RTFA, except neither the submitter nor the editor bothered either. Google doesn't own GeoEye-1. It belongs to a company called (wait for it) GeoEye. Google only figures in the article because they're a big purveyor of sat photos.

  • If the resolution is 50cm/px how can we see the lines on the parking lots which would have, at most, 15cm wide?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by 4D6963 (933028)
      Basically a line in an image has frequency components perpendicular to the line that are evenly spread over the spectrum. If you line is 10 cm wide and that you have a resolution of 50 cm/pixel then the brightest parts of the line will be 5 times dimmer (with respect to the darker background) than the colour of the paint. So you'll still see the line, it'll just be greyer, blending in the surrounding greyness.
  • by 4D6963 (933028) on Thursday October 09, 2008 @08:24PM (#25322735)
    TFA says that when the satellite shoots in black and white it gets 16 times more pixels than in colour mode. I don't get it, how can it be?
    • There are two separate sensors on the focal plane. One is panchromatic (i.e., "black and white") with a resolution of about 41cm. The other sensor has the same native resolution, but shares it between one of four multi-spectral bands (Red, Green, Blue, Near-IR). This is why the MS (multi-spectral) resolution for each band is exactly 4x lower than Pan band -- 1.64m vs 41cm.

      The 16x factor in the article is correct if you consider a square area (4 x 4) instead of a single row of pixels.
      • by 4D6963 (933028)

        Oh, I assumed it was just another Bayer grid and that therefore it should be 4x rather than 16x.

        By the way, if it's anything vaguely like a Bayer grid, except a 4x4 one, shouldn't it allow us to obtain a better resolution than the 1.64m by using the same sort of technique as used to turn RAW digital images into the full resolution RGB pictures we see?

  • by 4D6963 (933028)
    Is it me or does your campus look like a game of Tetris from space? Maybe I should lay off the booze some..
  • This is not a satellite photo -- it is an aerial photo. 1m resolution just wouldn't show the detail that we see here. The ballfield (100 m long) is about 135 pixels long, less than 1 m/pixel.

    How can this be a satellite photo?

    Thad

    • This *is* a satellite photo. It is at 50cm resolution (the highest resolution the US Government allows imaging companies to publish or sell). GeoEye-1 is actually capable of a slightly better resolution -- but until the law changes, this is the best you'll see. Pretty darned nice, eh?
  • First images from a new imaging satellite are almost never great. Several things, most particularly focus, have to be guessed at on the ground before launch and then adjusted once the bird is on orbit. As others have indicated, the choice of a first target is sometimes pretty arbitrary. The calibration team wants contrast and edges, but otherwise the content for the very first images doesn't matter much -- the point is just to establish that the entire command/control/imaging/download chain is working cor
  • """ I decided to check it out only to find that the first picture was actually of my college campus, Kutztown University """

    So, this is the new quantum-photographic tecnology in Google's Geo's Eye: They had a picture that was potentially from anywhere on Earth. In the moment the first observed downloaded it, it immediately collapsed to your location.

  • It's the only place I've smoked opium, they're on to me!!!

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