- Original Caption Released with Image:
This pair of images of the Long Island, New York region is a comparison of an optical photograph (top) and a radar image (bottom), both taken in darkness in April 1994. The photograph at the top was taken by the Endeavour astronauts at about 3 a.m. Eastern time on April 20, 1994. The image at the bottom was acquired at about the same time four days earlier on April 16,1994 by the Spaceborne Imaging Radar-C/X-Band Synthetic Aperture Radar (SIR-C/X-SAR) system aboard the space shuttle Endeavour. Both images show an area approximately 100 kilometers by 40 kilometers (62 miles by 25 miles) that is centered at 40.7 degrees North latitude and 73.5 degrees West longitude. North is toward the upper right.
The optical image is dominated by city lights, which are particularly bright in the densely developed urban areas of New York City located on the left half of the photo. The brightest white zones appear on the island of Manhattan in the left center, and Central Park can be seen as a darker area in the middle of Manhattan. To the northeast (right) of the city, suburban Long Island appears as a less densely illuminated area, with the brightest zones occurring along major transportation and development corridors. Since radar is an active sensing system that provides its own illumination, the radar image shows a great amount of surface detail, despite the night-time acquisition. The colors in the radar image were obtained using the following radar channels: red represents the L-band (horizontally transmitted and received); green represents the L-band (horizontally transmitted and vertically received); blue represents the C-band (horizontally transmitted and vertically received). In this image, the water surface - the Atlantic Ocean along the bottom edge and Long Island Sound shown at the top edge - appears red because small waves at the surface strongly reflect the horizontally transmitted and received L-band radar signal.
Networks of highways and railroad lines are clearly visible in the radar image; many of them can also be seen as bright lines i the optical image. The runways of John F. Kennedy International Airport appear as a dark rectangle in Jamaica Bay on the left side of the image. Developed areas appear generally as bright green and orange, while agricultural, protected and undeveloped areas appear darker blue or purple. This contrast can be seen on the barrier islands along the south coast of Long Island, which are heavily developed in the Rockaway and Long Beach areas south and east of Jamaica Bay, but further to the east, the islands are protected and undeveloped.
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