Whether you’re a bird-watcher, microbiologist, or deep space photographer, or just love looking through a telescope, chances are you’ve enjoyed the benefits of looking at the world just a little more closely.
What does the “naked eye” actually see?
Without any help, your vision is pretty incredible. Your eyes automatically focus on objects 50 cm away, ; they have a field of view corresponding to an area of 160° x 175°; they see objects in three dimensions and the respective distances between them; and they form color images based on the visible light range. Without even trying, your eyes are feeding you volumes of important information.
Zooming in: microscopes, binoculars, and telescopes
Lenses to focus an image have been around for a long time (some 4,000 years), but when the first microscope was invented around 1590 (depending on the source), the world began to change. For the first time ever, man could observe objects that were too small to be seen with the naked eye. As we entered this microscopic world, we learned a lot about our actual world. Probably most significantly was the rise of our modern understanding of disease-causing microorganisms and the resulting sanitation techniques that were applied to medicine (e.g., a dramatic decrease in infant mortality rates simply due to hand washing and cleaner birthing conditions).
Similarly, when Hans Lippershey invented the telescope in 1608, our presumptions about the cosmos were refuted and eventually replaced by ideas based on precise observations of the moon, sun, and planets. Simpler viewing devices have been used since then for navigational purposes. (“Land, ho!”) and eventually binoculars gave military personnel something more to look at on the battlefield.
But if you’re like us, we prefer the casual stargazing and bird watching with our lens-equipped devices.
Zooming out: satellite imaging
It’s estimated that there are almost 5,000 artificial satellites launched by more than 40 different countries orbiting planet Earth. Interestingly, only about 2,000 of those satellites are operational, so the rest have become, more or less, space waste. Expensive garbage, don’t you think? Well, as it turns out, we use satellites for a heck of a lot of purposes.
Most famously (and maybe notoriously), satellites used in wartime immediately comes to mind. And why not? During the Space Race of the Cold War period, who can forget Sputnik I and Explorer I? Not to mention a long history of spying via satellite imagery and high altitude flight photography. But as satellite technologies developed, so did their widespread applications.
Of the 2,000 operational satellites in orbit, only about 150 of them are used for direct observation of Earth (don’t worry, enough of them are ). Examples include sensors that determine radiation levels, ice thickness, and ocean height, high-resolution imaging, and even detection of gravitational forces. At first glance that might seem a little odd (who is watching me?), but remote sensing has become an integral part of modern scientific research and human discovery. With satellite images, we (literally) see the world in a completely different way. As such, we’re able to develop long term weather and climate models, precisely respond to disasters (e.g., wild fires and tsunamis), and closely study global vegetation, geological, and soil changes. There are even applications in urban and regional planning.
Keep your eyes in tip top shape to ensure you can see all the cool things around you, whether that’s through your naked eye or some visual enhancement device. Use your VSP Individual Vision Plan to schedule an eye exam with your doctor. If you don’t have vision insurance, find out how VSP can help you save on your next eye exam and pair of glasses.