JACQUES DESCLOITRES, MODIS RAPID RESPONSE TEAM, NASA GODDARD
The remnants of night are at left, and the rising sun creates a silver swath over the eastern half of the Hawaiian Islands in this satellite image from May 27, 2003. Because waves ruffle the surface of the water, the sun's reflection softens into what is called the sun-glint region.
A new view of home
A perch in near space offers a vantage point unmarred by the cacophony of modern life
From 230 miles up, crashing surf appears as a thin thread around the islands. Cotton-ball clouds cling to the highlands, casting impenetrable shadows over ravines, valleys and pastureland. The house-dense valleys and ridges of East Oahu reach like hungry fingers into the Koolaus.
The advancing dawn appears as a silver sheen on the sea.
One of the clear perks of the Space Age is an unparalleled view of our home planet. An all-encompassing view of the main Hawaiian Islands would be impossible but for satellites, the shuttle fleet and the International Space Station.
Over the last quarter-century, NASA has accumulated a vast collection of Earth imagery, including many stunning photos of Hawaii. The photos here, a small sample, show the wondrous range of possibilities: glimpses from high at the so-called Forbidden Island, Niihau; the dark green slopes of the archipelago's rain-fed windward shores; ocean shallows where humpbacks gather to bear and rear their young.
Space imagery and other data like radar altimetry have become common fare for scientists assessing the health of the planet. Shrinking ice caps, rising seas, volcanic plumes -- all are now routinely measured from space.
But these views from orbit also carry a sense of grandeur and lofty aloofness to the bustle of busy lives below. Jackhammers, jet engines, traffic, power tools -- none of that noise makes it into space.
NASA IMAGE BY ROBERT SIMMON, BASED ON DATA COPYRIGHT SPACE IMAGING
This image, taken by the Ikonos satellite on Nov. 7, 2002, shows the valleys and ridges of East Oahu. Crescent-shaped Hanauma Bay, in the bottom center of the image, is a relic of the latest and perhaps final burst of volcanic activity to occur on Oahu.
Taken from the International Space Station on Jan. 23, 2007, the photo above shows West Maui and Kahului at the top of the isthmus, with the tip of eastern Molokai at left. In the sea to the south, greenish colors indicate shallows popular with humpback whales during the winter and spring calving season.
A rare glimpse of Niihau. An image from Dec. 12, 2003, shows Kawaihoa Point at the southern tip of the island, the brownish Halalii and Halulu lakes and a third smaller lake to the left.
Taken on Sept. 15, 2005, the image at left offers a perspective from 215 miles up. It shows the northern end Niihau and Lehua Rock, a flooded cinder cone like Hanauma Bay, just offshore.