Sep 28th: Photographer Showdown: Astronauts vs Satellites


Podcaster: Richard Drumm
Space Scoop: Photographer Showdown: Astronauts vs Satellites

Organization:365 Days Of Astronomy

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Description: Space scoop, news for children. 

Bio: Richard Drumm is President of the Charlottesville Astronomical Society and President of 3D – Drumm Digital Design, a video production company with clients such as Kodak, Xerox and GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals. He was an observer with the UVa Parallax Program at McCormick Observatory in 1981 & 1982. He has found that his greatest passion in life is public outreach astronomy and he pursues it at every opportunity.

Today’s sponsor: This episode of “365 Days of Astronomy” is sponsored by — no one. We still need sponsors for many days in 2016, so please consider sponsoring a day or two. Just click on the “Donate” button on the lower left side of this webpage, or contact us at

This is the 365 Days of Astronomy Podcast. Today we bring you a new episode in our Space Scoop series. This show is produced in collaboration with Universe Awareness, a program that strives to inspire every child with our wonderful cosmos.

Photographer Showdown: Astronauts vs Satellites

Instagram, Pinterest, Imgur, Flickr – anyone with a smartphone can be a photographer these days. But a photograph taken in the 1960s is still one of the most famous and breathtaking images of all time.

The first deep space astronauts were the crew of Apollo 8. One of them, Bill Anders, snapped that photo showing Earth rising over the Moon’s horizon.


It captured the imagination of people across the world, showing us just how small and special our planet is.

Today astronauts aboard the International Space Station have to learn photography as part of their training. They spend a lot of their free time to taking pictures of Earth from their viewpoint 400 kilometers above us.

But astronauts are not the only ones with their eyes on Earth. Satellites have been photographing our planet even more than astronauts have.

They’re equipped with high-tech cameras and instruments which they use to track how our planet changes. This allows us to carry out all sorts of important tasks.

Tasks like measuring pollution in the air, mapping the disappearing rainforests and recording the amount of ice melting off of glaciers.

During natural disasters, like the devastating hurricanes that struck the Americas this month, satellites and astronauts work together to help the people who are affected.

Weather satellites track hurricane paths, so local authorities can decide whether they need to start evacuating people. Meanwhile, photographs taken by astronauts can actually help work out the strength of the storms.

So, do satellites or astronauts take better photos?

Well, it depends on what you want from the photo. As well as being inspiring, satellite images provide important science. But astronauts floating about weightless in space will always win our attention. The ISS’s cupola is kinda sexy…

So it’s a tie. The satellites have more quantity and the astronauts have more artistic merit. Anyway, the satellites aren’t just taking pictures randomly. They have controllers on the ground making the decisions, you know.

Hey, Here’s A Cool Fact:
From their vantage point high above the ground, both astronauts and satellites can see how fragile our planet is. Their pictures remind us how important it is to take care of each other and our small blue world as it floats through space.

Hmm… That reminds me of something Carl Sagan said in a speech at Cornell back in 1994 about a picture he had instructed a spacecraft to take:

“We succeeded in taking that picture, and, if you look at it, you see a dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever lived, lived out their lives.

The aggregate of all our joys and sufferings; thousands of confident religions, ideologies and economic doctrines; every hunter and forager; every hero and coward; every creator and destroyer of civilizations; every king and peasant; every young couple in love; every hopeful child; every mother and father; every inventor and explorer; every teacher of morals; every corrupt politician; every superstar; every supreme leader, every saint and sinner in the history of our species; lived there – on a mote of dust, suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and in triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot.

Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of the dot on scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner of the dot.

How frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our postureings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light.

[…] To my mind, there is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world.

To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly and compassionately with one another and to preserve and cherish that pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”

Thank you for listening to the 365 Days of Astronomy Podcast!
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365 Days of Astronomy
The 365 Days of Astronomy Podcast is produced by Astrosphere New Media. Audio post-production by Richard Drumm. Bandwidth donated by and wizzard media. You may reproduce and distribute this audio for non-commercial purposes. Please consider supporting the podcast with a few dollars (or Euros!). Visit us on the web at or email us at  This year we will celebrate more discoveries and stories from the universe. Join us and share your story. Until tomorrow! Goodbye!

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