Two bulldozed scars have been made on Galesnjak, Croatia's heart-shaped "Island of Love," as seen in this Geoeye 1 satellite photo taken on Feb. 16. The island's owner promises that Galesnjak will be "more beautiful than it was" when olive trees grow up on those strips of ground.
The Band-Aid strips are actually bulldozed strips of land that are destined to become groves of olive trees. One of the island's owners, Tonci Juresco, told the Croatian daily Jutarnji List this month that Galesnjak is being remodeled to accommodate wedding parties. "The island will be more beautiful than it was," he promised.
Even in its scarred condition, the Island of Love pulls at the heartstrings: It's currently the second most popular image in DigitalGlobe's top-20 satellite image contest. Facebook users can "like" their favorite pictures, and the five most liked selections will go on to a final round of voting next week.
We featured the front-running image, showing Mount Vesuvius from above, as the holiday goodie for Day 7 of our Cosmic Log Space Advent Calendar. Every day through Dec. 25, we'll be bringing you a tasty picture showing Earth from space. The tradition is modeled on the classic Advent calendar, which lets kids pluck out hidden treats from a 25-day array leading up to Christmas.
The Tokyo Skytree is considered the world's tallest broadcasting tower and the second-tallest human-made structure, so you should expect it to cast a blocks-long shadow on its surroundings in Japan's capital. The only building taller is the Burj Khalifa in Dubai — which rises 2,717 feet high, compared with the 2,080-foot Skytree.
The Skytree offers a restaurant and observation decks as well as broadcasting facilities for eight TV networks and two FM radio stations. There's a shopping arcade next door that includes a planetarium and aquarium. The complex had its official opening in May and is expected to draw 32 million visitors a year — which is more than Tokyo Disneyland's typical tally.
This picture of the Skytree and its tall shadow was captured on April 7 by one of DigitalGlobe's orbiting satellites, and ranks among the company's top 20 images for 2012. Facebook users have been invited to press their "like" buttons to vote for their favorite pictures over the next week. On Dec. 19, the field will be narrowed down to the top five — and then there'll be a Facebook vote for the year's top satellite picture. Check out DigitalGlobe's blog for more about the contest.
For more awe-inspiring sights from space, click through these past entries from our Cosmic Log Space Advent Calendar. We're featuring a fresh view of Earth from space every day from now until Christmas. And because you've been extra good this year, I've added a couple of Web links to other cosmic Advent calendars:
Correction for 12:30 p.m. ET Dec. 13: At one point I added a phrase saying that Burj Khalifa was six stories higher than the Tokyo Skytree, but as a few commenters have pointed out, those would be mighty big stories, at roughly 100 feet per story. Sixty stories would be closer to the mark. Thanks for pointing out the estimating error, and apologies for getting it wrong.
A handout satellite image from DigitalGlobe taken on April 15 and released April 17 shows a military parade winding through the center of Pyongyang, North Korea. North Korea's Kim Jong Un delivered his first major public speech on April 15 as the impoverished state celebrated the centenary of its founder's birth, calling for a push to "final victory" despite a failed rocket launch two days earlier.
Smiling and joking with generals on a podium after the speech, Kim watched as the country's missiles paraded past, a reminder that despite Friday's embarrassing failure to successfully launch a rocket, North Korea packs a punch.
When North Korea's new young leader spoke in public he surprised his own people and the world. Nothing like that had been seen or heard for years. Kim Jong Un's apparent openness was revolutionary, so too was his promise to end hunger. ITN's Angus Walker reports.
This picture from DigitalGlobe's QuickBird satellite shows the launch pad at the Tongchang-ri Launch Facility in North Korea, as seen on April 9. Three dark-colored support vehicles are lined up on the launch apron. The rail-mounted mobile launch platform is toward the bottom of the pad, with an exhaust deflector that's designed to deal with the hot blast of launch.
While North Korean officials were showing off their preparations for a controversial satellite launch, DigitalGlobe's Quickbird satellite was snapping high-resolution pictures of the scene from far above. The images reveal how far the North Koreans have come — and how much can be gleaned about their intentions from orbit.
DigitalGlobe is a commercial satellite imagery provider, and QuickBird can provide pictures at a resolution of a half-meter (20 inches) per pixel. But you can bet that U.S. intelligence agencies are getting significantly better views of the Tongchang-ri Launch Center from their satellites.
North Korea is due to launch its Unha-3 ("Milky Way 3") rocket anytime between now and April 16, ostensibly to send an Earth-observing satellite known as Kwangmyongsong-3 ("Bright Shining Star 3") into a pole-to-pole orbit. The United States and its allies worry that the launch is really more of a test of North Korea's capability to launch intercontinental missiles as weapons.
International journalists, including a team from NBC News, were invited to visit the secretive hard-line communist nation this week for an on-the-ground assessment of the space mission. NBC News space analyst James Oberg said that in its current configuration, the booster is "not a military missile ... but it's darn close."
"This rocket is not a weapon, but it's maybe 98 percent of one," Oberg said. "It can be converted all too easily and all too frighteningly into a weapon, and they don't need it."
AmericaSpace's Craig Covault said the Tongchang-ri facility is clearly built to handle rockets much larger than the Unha-3. He quoted U.S. and South Korean intelligence analysts as saying they believe the complex could be used for tests of North Korea's "Satan" long-range ballistic missile, as well as a North Korean-Iranian booster with up to six engines clustered in the first stage.
"Iran and possibly North Korea plan to use the large new space launch booster to send Iranian and North Korean astronauts into space," Covault wrote. He lays out a Korean-Iranian missile development program that sounds positively scary.
North Korea might have been hoping that this week's visit by journalists would put Washington's fears to rest. But based on the feedback so far, it doesn't sound as if that'll be the case.
Here's tonight's report from NBC News' Richard Engel in Pyongyang:
A North Korean satellite is poised to launch to commemorate the 100th birthday of Kim Il-sung, but there are some doubts over whether it will ever go into orbit. NBC's Richard Engel reports.
... Here's a computer-generated animation of the expected launch from Analytical Graphics Inc.:
This animation from AGI shows the launch and possible path of the Unha-3 long-range rocket, aimed at putting the Kwangmongsong-3 satellite into orbit. Video courtesy of Analytical Graphics Inc. (AGI). Visit http://agi.com/northkorea for additional resources.
... And here are more satellite pictures from DigitalGlobe:
An orbital view from DigitalGlobe's QuickBird satellite shows North Korea's Tongchang-ri Launch Facility from an altitude of 420 miles (680 kilometers).
James Oberg / msnbc.com (left) / DigitalGlobe (right)
The map of the Tongchang-ri Launch Facility that was displayed by the North Koreans during a news briefing (left) is compared with the overhead view from DigitalGlobe (right). The orientation of the satellite picture has been rotated to approximate the orientation of the map.
This satellite view shows the horizontal processing building at the Tongchang-ri Launch Facility in North Korea, with a support vehicle parked in the dark-colored parking lot below the building.
This DigitalGlobe satellite image, taken from orbit on April 9, shows the Tongchang-ri Launch Facility in North Korea. The structure in the lower part of the frame is known as the high-bay processing building, and the structures in the upper pat are housing facilities. VIP housing is at leff.
Worshipers crowd around the Kaaba shrine in the Saudi city of Mecca, venerated as the most sacred site in Islam, in a satellite picture from DigitalGlobe. The image was captured from orbit on Nov. 2, just before the beginning of the annual Hajj pilgrimage. During the Hajj, millions of Muslims walk counterclockwise seven times around the Kaaba.
By Alan Boyle, Science Editor, NBC News
'Tis the season for religious holidays, including Hanukkah for Jews and Christmas for Christians. But the Muslim world has already marked its biggest religious observance of the year, with an orbiting satellite as a witness.
Today's offering for the Cosmic Log Space Advent Calendar adds an Islamic twist to the holiday countdown: Here's a picture from DigitalGlobe showing thousands of people gathering around the Kaaba shrine in Mecca on Nov. 2, just before the annual Hajj pilgrimage. Participating in the Hajj is a duty able-bodied Muslims are required to perform at least once in their lives. The capstone of the experience is the Eid al-Adha, a festival that commemorates the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son Ishmael to God.
The scriptural story serves to illustrate the linkages between different religious traditions. Whether you observe Eid al-Adha or Hanukkah, Advent or none of the above, here's wishing you wider perspectives on the world and its inhabitants during this holiday season.
Some of those wider perspectives are on view in our Month in Space Pictures slideshow, which we've just published for November. Here's a lineup of links for the pictures included in the slideshow, plus pointers to some other space-themed Advent calendars:
Correction for 2:10 a.m. ET Dec. 3: Space consultant Charles Lurio pointed out that in Islamic tradition, it's Ishmael who is offered to God by Abraham. I originally went with Isaac, in accordance with Genesis 22, but in this context I guess I should go with the Koran's version of the story. Many thanks to Charles for setting me straight.