NASA is taking in an outer space level view of the Sochi Olympics this year thanks to its Terra satellite. The satellite used its Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) to observe and share images of the distant site of the 2014 Winter Games. The images were taken from Terra’s orbit on Jan. 4.
The city of Sochi itself is not visible in the recently released photos, though the Olympic Park resting on the shores of the Black Sea is, including its separate competition arenas ready for the collection of elite international athletes preparing to enter their doors. The rugged terrain in the photographs also shows the double black diamond ski slopes at the resort known as Rosa Khutar that are being used for the intense alpine ski competitions.
The snowy slopes are seen as white in the photographs with red areas being those covered in vegetation. Gray buildings dot the landscape as well, and the Black Sea appears in dark blue hues.
In addition to the images of the current Winter Olympics site at Sochi, NASA has released a set of images of each of the past sites of the Winter Olympic Games for observation. Observers of the remarkable images from Sochi may note that there is less snow that might be expected for the site of the Winter Olympics. Sochi is known as one of the warmest cities in Russia boasting palm trees in its sub-tropical climate and long having been known as a resort town for vacationing families. The city of 400,000 has reportedly undergone a massive transformation to prepare for the Winter Games.
NASA Earth-observing satellite Terra launched in 1999 with five highly tuned instruments designed to keep an eye on the planet, and it is not the only one taking a look at the site of the Sochi Olympics from space this year. DigitalGlobe, a private imaging company known for its stunning photos of Earth released a collection of images from its space-level view of the Sochi site. Google is getting in on the act of imaging Sochi as well. Google Earth recently updated their street view images of Sochi and the surrounding areas in preparation for the hype around the Winter Games.
Astronauts in residence on the International Space Station will also be keeping up with Olympic events from space, including two from NASA expected to cheer on fellow Americans taking part in the games. The Olympic torch used to light up the Sochi site this Olympiad even did a stint in space. The torch was launched to the International Space Station with cosmonauts who took it on a space walk last November before bringing it back to Earth for the next leg of its journey.
As viewed by NASA from space or by spectators here on Earth, the Sochi Winter Olympics promise to be as exciting as ever in 2014 as they run at the site from Feb. 7 to Feb. 23. The Games include 12 new Olympic events this year, some of which give a nod to the excitement of the Winter X Games. These include the introduction of slopestyle snowboarding, free skiing half pipe, women’s ski jumping and a team figure skating competition.
By Michele Wessel