What’s the Last Thing The Doctor Sees Before Landing the TARDIS?

The entire universe in blog form
Jan. 11 2013 12:34 PM

Geronimo! Allons-y! Fantastic!

I’ve often wondered: When The Doctor watches the screens on the central console of the TARDIS, what does he see right before landing on Earth?

If I had to guess, I’d say THIS:

Envisat view of Great Britian, Ireland, and France from March 2012
Envisat view of Ireland, Great Britain, and France from March 28, 2012. Unusual for the region, it was entirely cloudless.

Image credit: ESA

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[Click to enraxacoricofallapatorianate.]

That’s the view of Great Britain, Ireland, and the north of France as seen by Envisat, an Earth-observing satellite. That area is very rarely entirely cloud-free, but on Mar. 28, 2012 this is how it looked from nearly 800 kilometers (490 miles) above the Earth’s surface. The view is astonishing, but I am particularly drawn to the wash of sediment from rivers out to sea, especially on the southeast of England where you can see the Thames bringing sediment into the North Sea. You should really grab the bigger version to see it clearly.

Sadly, Envisat suddenly ceased operations shortly after this image was taken, in April 2012, and was declared dead by the European Space Agency a month later. More Earth-observing birds are planned for launch starting later this year, but it’s bad news to have lost such a magnificent instrument.

If only we knew someone who could swoop in and save the day, maybe hitting the dead sat with a beam from some sort of sonic-based toolery to re-energize it. Ah, well.

Wlecome to the TARDIS.
"The triumph of intellect and romance over brute force and cynicism." - Craig Ferguson

Image credit: BBC News / BBC Sport / bbc.co.uk - © 2013 BBC

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

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