Department Of Interior

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Office of the Secretary
Contact: Anne C. James
For Immediate Release:,2004
Earth as Art Exhibit Opens at Interior Museum

(WASHINGTON) -- Satellite images of verdant deltas, desert dunes, and wind-driven clouds taken from 440 miles in space are on display at the U.S. Department of the Interior Museum's exhibit, Earth as Art.

The twenty Landsat 7 images are on view at the museum through April 23, 2004. The accurate data they provide about land, sea, air, and biotic communities is used in agriculture, regional planning and global change research. Still, their abstract beauty is beguiling; they present clouds reminiscent of wave-worn driftwood, and mountain ranges resembling gray-green fossils with trace outlines of an ancient bird.

The Interior Department's U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) have partnered on the Landsat Project since 1972. The USGS Earth Resources Observation Systems (EROS) Data Center in South Dakota receives and archives images collected by Landsat satellites, and distributes them to scientists, policy makers, and educators worldwide. Today, EROS houses four million satellite images, in addition to 8 million aerial photographs taken by aircraft for the USGS and other agencies.

The satellite data (with its high spatial resolution) is not manipulated by graphic design software to achieve the dramatic compositions on view. Only adjustments to contrast are made to the data. The resulting images resemble paintings by Abstract Expressionists as they serve as important scientific tools. Orange sands in the Namib Desert look more like flourishes of impasto paint than dunes seen from space. Viewers sense a haunting quality to the swirling clouds in the image, "Karman Vortices near Broutona," taken in the region between Russia and Japan. Crops watered by circular irrigation systems create the syncopated rhythms in the composition, "Near Garden City, Kansas."

The Interior Museum is open to the public Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (except Federal holidays) and the third Saturday of each month from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free. Adult visitors must present a form of photo identification (such as a driver's license, student ID, or employment card) when entering the Main Interior Building at 1849 C Street, N.W., in Washington, D.C. Wheelchair access is available at the 18th and E Streets entrance. For more information, call 202-208-4743.


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