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Chapter 2: Studying Earth’s Surface

Difficulty Level: At Grade Created by: CK-12
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If you’ve seen the Grand Canyon or a photo of the Grand Canyon, you’ll know that this is not the Grand Canyon. Or is it? The rock colors seen above are not what a person standing at the rim on the canyon would see. From the rim, the Grand Canyon is mostly red with the prominent white stripe of the Coconino Sandstone near the top. The cliffs are more angular than the cliffs pictured here. NASA produced this image using data from the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emissions and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER), one of five remote sensing devices aboard the Terra spacecraft. ASTER measures 14 different wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum, ranging from visible to infrared light, to give information on land surface temperature, reflectance, and elevation. The resolution is between 15 and 90 meters.

So, is this the Grand Canyon? Any image or map of the Earth’s surface is just a representation. All maps show the data the map maker intended at the best level of accuracy possible. Each representation is valuable in its own way but has limitations. The only real Grand Canyon is the one you are looking at from the rim of the canyon. Or is that image altered by the tint of your sunglasses?

NASA/GSFC/MITI/ERSDAC/JAROS and U.S./Japan ASTER Team. www.nasa.gov/multimedia/imagegallery/image_feature_769.html. Public Domain.

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