Our knowledge of our oceans is limited. Ships, coastlines, and islands provide places from which we can observe, sample, and study small portions of the ocean. But we can only look at a very small
part of all the world's oceans this way. We need a better way to study oceans.
When we look at the ocean from space, we see many different shades of blue.
Using instruments that are more sensitive than the human eye, we can measure carefully the fantastic array of colors. Satellites can directly measure ocean productivity and temperature based on ocean color. Microscopic plants
(phytoplankton) absorb certain wavelengths of light and reflect others. Mapping ocean color reveals fertile areas; those places where large quantities of phytoplankton are found and because fish feed on it, the chances are there will be many fish there too.
Since a satellite's instruments can view every square kilometer of cloud-free ocean
every 48 hours, ocean color measurements can be valuable tools for finding out how
much life is in the ocean on a global scale and can be used
to figure out the ocean's role in the carbon cycle and the way other
important gases are exchanged between the atmosphere and the ocean. SeaWiFS was sent up as the "sequel" to the Coastal Zone
Color Scanner (CZCS), which ceased operations in 1986.
The SeaStar spacecraft carries
the SeaWiFS instrument and was launched to low-Earth orbit on board an extended Pegasus launch vehicle on August 1, 1997. The SeaWiFS instrument is the only scientific payload on the
SeaStar spacecraft. Data collected by the SeaWiFS instrument is broadcast back to ground stations all over the world by the SeaStar spacecraft.
Movie: SeaStar Spacecraft illustration
Movie: SeaWiFS Lunar Calibration
The SeaWiFS instrument collects data that allows scientists to examine how the ocean affects global change and to find out what role the oceans' play in the global carbon cycle.