Some NASA satellites such as LASCO transmit images which are viewable by the public in real time. Are there any high-resolution Earth-facing satellites that also are viewable by the public in real time? Either government-funded or private satellites would be of interest.

By real-time I mean a public feed of reasonably recent data in a format supported by common consumer equipment, available over a network accessible by common consumer equipment. The web interface to LASCO would be the canonical example of this.

By high resolution I mean the ability to discern objects that can be seen in their entirety by a human standing on the ground. Thus an image of the panhandle of Florida would not be high resolution, but the ability to resolve pad 39 A would be.

Edit: The information reported here is exactly the type of satellite information that I am looking for: http://time.com/3042640/satellite-russian-ukraine-shelling/

  • How do you define real-time? Weather satellites continuously transmit their measurements but it takes antennae and software to actually use the data. – gerrit May 8 '14 at 14:58
  • What's more important, what is high resolution for you? – Deer Hunter May 8 '14 at 15:57
  • Thank you. I have updated the question with clarified terminology. – dotancohen May 9 '14 at 6:32
  • The DigitalGlobe data products that you include now in the edit don't really match the rest of your requirements. These are not real-time transmitted to the public, but contract based paid for services that include satellite and aerial photography products. If any of their customers wanted to transmit this service's data products in real time to the general public, they likely wouldn't be able to do so, subject to all kinds of legal, national security and international conventions related obstacles. From your example, they had to be cleared for public use first. – TildalWave Jul 28 '14 at 13:26
  • I understand you point. With that in mind, I now know which answer to accept! – dotancohen Jul 28 '14 at 14:44
up vote 7 down vote accepted

International Space Station (ISS) now hosts the High Definition Earth Viewing (HDEV) experiment:

The High Definition Earth Viewing (HDEV) experiment places four commercially available HD cameras on the exterior of the space station and uses them to stream live video of Earth for viewing online. The cameras are enclosed in a temperature specific housing and are exposed to the harsh radiation of space. Analysis of the effect of space on the video quality, over the time HDEV is operational, may help engineers decide which cameras are the best types to use on future missions. High school students helped design some of the cameras' components, through the High Schools United with NASA to Create Hardware (HUNCH) program, and student teams operate the experiment.

Live streams are available via the HDEV experiment channel on USTREAM to everyone.

Another project is UrtheCast that is commercial in nature (currently requires registration) and also aims to stream live feeds from two high-definition cameras onboard the ISS in the near future.

I'm not sure what exactly you mean with "real-time" though, since the SOHO's (and also e.g. SDO, STEREO,...) images of the Sun aren't exactly real-time due to the time it takes to complete observations for each frame and transmit their data back to Earth. They are frequently updated though, did you mean any satellite imagery of the Earth that is publicly available as soon as it's available to their operators?

If latter, then yes, there are many Earth-observing satellites with their data streams publicly available, for example from LANDSAT, EUMETSAT, and so on. There are also websites that aggregate data from multiple sources and publish them as they become available, e.g. the University of Wisconsin-Madison's SOSE (Satellite Observations in Science Education) program.

If you have the necessary antennae and ground segment, you can receive data from many satellites. Many of those transmit in near-real-time. For example, the 5th generation of POES satellites (polar orbiting weather satellites) provide direct readout to all users across the globe. To use the data, you will need:

  • a directed antenna pointing at the satellite
  • accurate knowledge of the location of the satellite
  • a ground station with the necessary software to process the measurements

Many national weather offices have this equipment. I don't know if any amateurs do.

  • Wouldn't it be easier to have polar and LEO satellites to transmitt to geostationary communications satellites instead of to the ground they pass over so quickly? – LocalFluff May 9 '14 at 6:59
  • 1
    @LocalFluff: The bandwidth to the Geostationary satellites is very limited, there is limited visibility to the geostationary satellites above ~60 degrees (even for a satellite), and the geostationary satellites are further away than most land-based stations anyway. – dotancohen May 9 '14 at 11:48

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