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Why Russian Space Images Look Different From NASA's 203

An anonymous reader writes "The Russians have published two amazing photos of Earth using their new Elektro-L satellite, in 30,000km high orbit around the equator. The quality is stunning, and they look quite different from NASA's Earth images. But why are they different? And are they better than NASA's?"
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Why Russian Space Images Look Different From NASA's

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  • Well, they're in Russian, for one thing.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 30, 2011 @08:43PM (#35673330)

    Gizmodo redirects any traffic to their localized versions. For example, I'm in Brazil and if I follow the link provided in the summary, they redirect me to!5787176/this-is-the-moon-and-the-earth-like-you-have-never-seen-them-before -- that doesn't exist and goes to the front page of the localized version.

    Note that I both my OS and browser are in English. I even made sure that my "preferred language for displaying pages" are only English. I guess they do the redirection based on IP only, and find that quite rude.

    • Same here, except I get the German version. German Gizmodo is -- hard to believe but true -- even worse than Gizmodo. I am talking mild nausea from looking at the frontpage for more than a few seconds. I might sue.

    • Replacing with on the url fixes it.
      And yes, I also think it is annoying.
    • by seifried ( 12921 )
      I'm from Canada using English Firefox/Win7 and I got the url "!5787176/this-is-the-moon-and-the-earth-like-you-have-never-seen-them-before" and an article about watches, it wasn't until I scrolled past (counting... 33?) other articles that I got to the one about the space images. This is just fantastically bad.
      • by Mashiki ( 184564 )

        Yeah I'm in Canada, but my PC regional setting is set to JP, and I get the japanese edition? Ah ... what the fuck? Screw this, the submitter should be launched into LEO for doing this. And Gizmodo should be launched into the sun.

      • I've probably experienced the same result. I'm in the UK and every time I open a Gizmodo page, it doesn't display the right one (probably what you folks are experiencing). If I close that tab (I open new links in new tabs whilst browsing /.) and then open it again, it displays the correct page. Refreshing the page doesn't work - you have to close and re-open. I have no idea what the monkeys in charge of Gizmodo are doing but this may help those of you who can't find TFA.
    • by Rhaban ( 987410 )

      same here with gizmodo fr, but there are links just under the top banner for several other versions. I clicked "US", got redirected to the us front page, then re-clicked the link in TFS and got the article.

      I think this link:!5787176/this-is-the-moon-and-the-earth-like-you-have-never-seen-them-before [] should get you to the article no matter where you are.

    • by KiloByte ( 825081 ) on Thursday March 31, 2011 @04:39AM (#35675760)

      Fixed link:!5787176/this-is-the-moon-and-the-earth-like-you-have-never-seen-them-before [].

      Pages that try to detect your language and present it in-place are just retarded, whatever using Accept-Language like you suggest or based on IP (Gizmodo, Google, YouTube, ...). Landing pages that 302 you to a language edition or offer a manual choice are fine -- they don't break bookmarks or links.

    • Same thing here. That's annoying.
  • Bla (Score:4, Informative)

    by vbraga ( 228124 ) on Wednesday March 30, 2011 @08:47PM (#35673362) Journal

    In my experience with remote sensing better looking means nothing. What matters is the what kind of information we're able to extract from images. Like: []

    This a useful Landsat image (or composition, actually). It's also very ugly. But it's very useful.

    We often had a guy to make a few beautiful images. Do the composition in the GIS software we used normally and our designed retouched it on Photoshop. People often went "wow" when looking at it but it was useless.

    • Been working in GIS for 10 years. Yeah that's pretty standard.

      Two sets of data:

      1) That you use to do actual work and analysis on. It isn't pretty.
      2) That you use for presentations, that is heavily edited, photo shopped/illustrator, and very pretty.

      Managers and public don't want to see the stuff you do actual work on, as its fuglie as hell. They want pretty pictures they can go ohhh and ahhhh at.

      Then of course they want all sorts of unreasonable requests based on that not knowing how many hours went into fud

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      Th Germans bought an understanding of style, propaganda and understood US tax payers wanted to see something that looked good in print for their $ over many years.
    • by sjames ( 1099 )

      Quite the opposite really. The Russian image is mostly from the infrared actually, so the colors are necessarily false. As realistic as it seems, that's not something the naked eye can ever see. It is a really nice artistic rendering, but probably not what they use for analysis.

  • by QuantumG ( 50515 ) * <> on Wednesday March 30, 2011 @08:52PM (#35673390) Homepage Journal

    Terrible article.. what's amazing here is that a whole mess of satellites have been launched to GEO but this is the first time anyone bothered to release photos from the altitude to the public. Isn't it glorious to see the entire Earth in one frame?!

    • by maxume ( 22995 )

      Dish Network has a camera on one of their satellites, and of course they have a channel showing what the camera sees.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      NOAA [] (who is the one responsible for most American earth observation satellites, not NASA, although I'd hardly expect the Slashdot editors to know that subtlety) has been releasing image data from the GOES satellites to the public for a while. "GOES" stands for "Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite," so yes, they are in geostationary orbit.
    • Isn't it glorious to see the entire Earth in one frame?!

      Eh ... you do realize that the Earth isn't flat, right?

      • by dylan_- ( 1661 )

        Isn't it glorious to see the entire Earth in one frame?!

        Eh ... you do realize that the Earth isn't flat, right? do realise that if the Earth was flat, you'd still only see half of it? ;-)

  • by leehwtsohg ( 618675 ) on Wednesday March 30, 2011 @08:56PM (#35673416)
    Oh, gizmodo is horrible. First it took me to the german site, which didn't have the article. Then, after lots of manipulation (click the little 'US' label on the left top), I got to the article, but couldn't figure out how to close the stupid window that covers half of the cool image they're talking about.

    But, to the subject: Isn't it fairly obvious why the russian image looks better? Look: compare the NASA image: [] to the russian one: [] One obvious difference - in the NASA image, clouds have no shadow, in the russian one they do. That makes the NASA image look flat, and the russian one jump out in 3D. Why that is, I'm not sure.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      The blue marble image is a composite image of many different pictures and sources taken at different times. The cloud layer was taked seperately from the other layers and stitched on to become part of the entire image. The Russian picture, however, is from one single image and is how the earth looked at that moment.
      • by leehwtsohg ( 618675 ) on Wednesday March 30, 2011 @09:20PM (#35673564)
        Yes, I think you are right. And the cloud layer has some obvious photoshop artifacts.. strange. (go left from panama, you'll hit a cloud with w hole, and a bit further left, another cloud with a hole. These two clouds and the region around them are pixel copies of each other. That was pointed to in a comment on gizmodo)
        • by yotto ( 590067 )

          (go left from panama, you'll hit a cloud with w hole, and a bit further left, another cloud with a hole. These two clouds and the region around them are pixel copies of each other. That was pointed to in a comment on gizmodo)

          Panama? I only see an image of Africa and Asia. Is there a link to this image of the Americas?

          • Panama? I only see an image of Africa and Asia.

            See?! That proves it's photoshopped, They even forgot to put in parts of America.

    • by yoshi_mon ( 172895 ) on Wednesday March 30, 2011 @09:26PM (#35673626)

      Yeah, that site is a mess if you are using NoScript. I normally will allow the site itself and see if that will fix it but it did not. So rather than allowing the 5+ data-mining addresses to operate I just will do without.

    • by sjames ( 1099 )

      I had to pull up the DOM Inspector, locate the stupid window in the code and delete it to view the page properly.

      • I had to pull up the DOM Inspector, locate the stupid window in the code and delete it to view the page properly.

        I just right-clicked the picture and opened it in a new tab.

    • Beauty is subjective, but the Russian version seems to have 3 key things going for it:

      1. It's taken with the sun at the side instead of behind the craft, making for deeper cloud shadows.

      2. The NASA image was probably taken through different color/wavelength filters (as described in TFA) and the clouds and/or the craft move a bit between filter changes, blurring the clouds in the re-combined images. The Russian one used a camera that works more like commercial cameras: different sub-pixels for different colo

    • by euxneks ( 516538 )
      It could be that when NASA is taking their images with a Satellite, they are making sure the sun is behind their satellite, thus ensuring that any shadows cast by the sun will not appear to the satellite..
  • by screamphilling ( 1173499 ) on Wednesday March 30, 2011 @08:57PM (#35673422)
    "the Russian images are not better or worse than their images. They are just different visualizations of reality based on different data sets" and this sums up nearly everything ever.
    • +1 concise
    • Ummm... but that doesn't mean that the US images are any better or worse than the russian images.

      Take, for example, what appears to be a Cal Tech prank that seems to have made it into NASA's photo-of-the-day, back when CASSINI was sending pics of Titan. []

      Now, the author may be right -- it wouldn't seem that Titan could have an atmospheric-style plume, with strong wind shears at 10000 feet, now, would it? But right or wrong, my point will still hold.


    • "the Russian images are not better or worse than their images. They are just different visualizations of reality based on different data sets"

      and this sums up nearly everything ever.

      In post-Soviet Russia, satellite data and image visualizes you.

  • tl;dr (Score:5, Informative)

    by Beardydog ( 716221 ) on Wednesday March 30, 2011 @09:08PM (#35673488)
    The Russian photos are made entirely of data from red and infrared sensors. The NASA Blue Marble image is a completely, tragically fake rendering, with visible polygon vertices... but mapped with photos from beautiful RGB sensors.
  • by doug141 ( 863552 ) on Wednesday March 30, 2011 @09:23PM (#35673590)
    The russian photos in question combine infra-red with visible wavelengths. They are not better, just different.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    These clowns can't produce reliable URLs. Don't reward them with links.

    The image [].

    • by Arker ( 91948 )

      I was actually interested in the article, but when I tried to read it, I got the most godawful pile of junk I have seen posing as a web page for many days. Completely unreadable without allowing scripting, and allowing their scripts doesnt improve things. Presumably it would become readable if I were to whitelist the very long list of sites it is drawing scripts from, but this is ridiculous. Screw Gizmodo.

  • wow there's really nothing left of the aral sea?
  • by PPH ( 736903 ) on Wednesday March 30, 2011 @09:42PM (#35673728)

    ... Kodachromeski.

  • by Cameleopard ( 1366007 ) on Wednesday March 30, 2011 @09:53PM (#35673790)
    Curses! You tricked me into visiting Gizmodo. I will tolerate no more of your cretinous games!
  • by Hynee ( 774168 ) on Wednesday March 30, 2011 @10:10PM (#35673900) Homepage
    These images look nice, interesting angles. They probably look slick because they've been post resized sharpened, the smaller versions on Gizmodo have been gently sharpened to make them pop a bit, it's a common photographic trick [].
    Even if you have a sharp 12-24 megapixel image, it can always use some sharpening when it's downsized for the web. If you don't sharpen after downsizing, photographs still look great but not as crisp as they could.
    (And yes, if you sharpen the full size image and then downsize, the downsizing obliterates the sharpening done at full size.)
  • Of course it would look different. The Russian image is actually taken in space, unlike the NASA one which was filmed in a sound stage [].
  • ...with a lot of facts but no explanation.

    The Russian images look more realistic because of the sense of perspective induced by the reflection of the sun of the globe. The Russian color schemes also look more alien, which catches your eye a bit more than the NASA (regular) color scheme, which we are used to seeing.

    That is why near IR images of earth objects are so intriguing as well. It's a picture of an everyday object, but it just looks different!

  • With "real" I mean images with colors like a human would see from above there. Or at least like pictures taken with a good DSLR camera.

    I really like to view the beautiful images they generate from data like the one Hubble delivers, but I am also interested in seeing how the things in space would look to a human eye.

    • by Octorian ( 14086 )

      Well, we do have the photos taken by the Apollo astronauts. Those were taken using color film on a Hasselblad, which is technically a medium-format SLR, and the quality is pretty darn amazing.

  • The earth is actually quite flat. Russia hires different artists to create their space "photography" than NASA. It's a conspiracy to keep us from realizing that the earth is really the center of the universe and that all of the objects in space move around us.

  • Let me sum up the article, minus the propaganda: Russia has launched a new satellite that takes infrared pictures of earth. The Russian space agency is using those to produce false color images. They look really cool, and it is a big success.

    Unfortunately, the tone of the article is "OMG! Did the Russians do something better than us Americans! It cannot be! But don't worry citizens: the American government can explain it away! Their camera is really only as good as our cameras, but they are post-proce

  • What looks 'better' varies by person, but in general anything goes when making an image beautiful to the eye. The Russians are using more infrared bands than most NASA images do, and their images have a lower sun angle. Both of these bring out details in the imagery.

    If you want to see more images taken in infrared bands, take a look at the Earth as Art exhibit hosted by the USGS. [] (NASA is credited on some of them because it was involved with the satellites. And for full disclosure, I should mention that

  • Everyone knows we've never really been to space. The reason these two countries produce such different versions of space images is because neither has actually been there! So of course they came up with two totally different looks. I don't know how much more evidence you need to see the truth.

"If it's not loud, it doesn't work!" -- Blank Reg, from "Max Headroom"