GeoNotes: ‘Texas as Art’ at Museum of the Big Bend  

This month’s GeoNotes is a fervent commendation to get thee to the Museum of the Big Bend at Sul Ross State University to attend their current special showing in the North Gallery! This magnificent presentation of the landscapes and ecosystems of Texas is only available in Alpine from January 14 until April 2, so don’t delay: GO TODAY. Cost is included in your annual MoBB membership or $5 per adult. 

The swirls of color in the Texas as Art showing are created by various processings of satellite  imagery of our beautiful, vast and varied state. The Trans-Pecos province is the main focus of  this art collection. Four of the ecozones “beyond the hundredth meridian” are highlighted, but there are images from other regions of Texas. Rebecca Dodge and Teresa Howard are the Landsat artists/geoscientists, complimented by the ground landscapes by Liz Culp. Make sure to review the posters in the entry hall about the ecozones of Texas. Particularly interesting are the large burn scars on many of the satellite images of West Texas ecozones from recent wind-driven fires. 

The satellite artworks in this wonderful showing were created courtesy of our federal tax  dollars at work over several decades in the Landsat missions. Remote sensing of our planet from space began for military reconnaissance purposes by the U.S. and U.S.S.R. in the mid-1950s. Project Gemini (1961-66) astronauts took handheld Hasselblad camera images of Earth, some of which covered West Texas where the astronauts studied on geologic field trips. The Earth Resources Technology Satellite mission, later renamed Landsat 1, was launched by NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey in 1972. It used a four band multi-spectral scanner designed by Virginia T. Norwood, a physicist/engineer (MIT 1947) for Hughes Aircraft Co. She is honored as the “mother of Landsat.” There have now been nine Landsat missions to remotely sense our planet. Landsat 4 through 9 are still actively gathering data. Landsat 9 was just launched on September 27, 2021, despite the COVID pandemic. In addition to the artistic renderings of Texas you will meet at MoBB, Landsat data is extremely valuable for agriculture, forest management, flooding mitigation, wildlife habitat/ecosystems mapping, shoreline monitoring, fire damage, urban development expansion and glacial extent monitoring. 

Don’t miss this rare opportunity to better understand the geology, geography and natural  history of our region as imaged from space at the Museum of the Big Bend!