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Here's How Those Gigantic Tianjin Explosions Appeared From Space

It’s been about 48 hours since a pair of explosions rocked the Chinese port city of Tianjin. At a force approaching two dozen tons of TNT, they registered as seismic activity by China’s National Earthquake Network. And as these satellite images show, they could also be seen from space.


These three animated images were captured by a trio of Asian weather satellites. The one on top was taken by the recently deployed Himawari-8, while the other two were captured by an older Japanese model and a South Korean satellite.


Wired’s Nick Stockton explains:

Although a tragic case study, it’s impossible not to notice how much more sophisticated Himawari-8 is than its aging peers. Not only is its imagery is far less pixelated, but its capture rate is one image every ten minutes, compared to thirty and fifteen minute respective rates of the satellite imagery shown below it. Even ten minutes is the lower limit of new satellite’s capability. If it had been programmed to focus on Tianjin in advance, it could have returned imagery at thirty second intervals. The frame rate and pixel resolution are such that you can clearly see the smoke clouds from the blast in Himawari-8’s frame2.

Stockton says the images were taken using filters that narrow slices of the infrared band, which lends well to capturing meteorologically important phenomenon, such as clouds (which can be seen at far right), fog, and fire.

[ Wired ]

Email the author at and follow him at @dvorsky. Top image by Meteorological Agency/National Meteorological Satellite Center/CIMSS

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