Earth is a part of space too!
Welcome back to the Monday Astronomy Picture Ponderings (MAPPs) series where every Monday I normally pick one of NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) entries from the past seven days to focus on in some way.
When we think of space, it’s often seen as an antonym to Earth. Space is anything off Earth. Space is what Earth isn’t. It’s dark and cold whereas Earth has night, but also day, cold, but also warm. Space has stars, comets, asteroids, moons, and even planets.
When we do discuss Earth in an astronomical context, it is often to compare and contrast it with planets and other astronomical objects.
“While Earth is covered in oceans, most other planets don’t have liquid water.”
“While Mars is a terrestrial planet like Earth, it is a desert world due to its thinner atmosphere.”
Even I have compared and contrasted it at length with other astronomical bodies in our solar system such as Titan.
Earth is a part of the universe and a very familiar one to us. It’s the one we know best because we live on it and yet, we are still learning every day about the intricacies of what makes our world work the way it does. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) “only about five percent of the global ocean has been mapped by modern multibeam sonar systems to provide detailed information about the seafloor” and current estimates state that 81 to 91% of species are undiscovered/ adequately documented and observed.
And so, many would be surprised to learn that part of NASA’s science mission is to study Earth as well. NASA’s Earth Science Division utilizes observation methods in space as well as in the air, on the land and in the sea to make “informed decision-making for agriculture, water and food security, urban planning, disaster preparedness and response, transportation, climate and weather, and myriad other things that benefit life on Earth.”
Their observations, missions, and reports help us better understand the planet we live on and the natural and human-made changes that have occurred over the years and are currently occurring.