Pale Blue Dot: Visualization Challenge

Use public Earth observation data to create a visualization that furthers the Sustainable Development Goals of zero hunger, clean water and sanitation, or climate action.

Space Study program
jan 2024
1,591 joined

About the competition

This challenge was designed to engage data science learners and practitioners in using data to understand and improve quality of life on Earth through analysis and visualization. As detailed below, in this challenge, quality of life on Earth is captured by the Sustainable Development Goals and the data used to understand and track progress towards those goals will be publicly available U.S. Earth observation data.

Pale Blue Dot image from Voyager 1

The Pale Blue Dot is an iconic image of our planet taken from 3.7 billion miles away by NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft. The image inspired scientist Carl Sagan to write "Look at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us." in his book "Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space." Image source: NASA/JPL

About the SDGs

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set global priorities for improving quality of life around the world, and were adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015. The SDGs strive to tackle critical global issues like poverty, inequality, and climate change.

This competition focuses on three of the Sustainable Development Goals: Zero Hunger, Clean Water and Sanitation, and Climate Action. Click on the images below to read more about each goal!

Graphic for SDG 2: Zero Hunger Graphic for SDG 6: Clean Water and Sanitation Graphic for SDG 13: Climate Action

About the data

Addressing the SDGs will require us to tap into all of the tools, skills, and creativity available to the scientific community worldwide. One critical tool that can be used to advance the SDGs is publicly available Earth observation data. Earth observation data (or EO data) is data that is collected in space to describe life here on Earth! EO data provide accurate and free information on our atmosphere, oceans, ecosystems, land cover, and built environment. The United States and its partners have a long history of exploring outer space and making satellite, airborne, and in-situ sensor datasets openly available to all. For example, the Landsat satellite provides the longest continuous space-based record of Earth's land in existence.

Image of Laguna de Aculeo that is primarily brown, where the lake is completely dry Image of Lagune de Aculeo that is almost entirely green. Water can be starting to fill the lake.

After going dry in 2018, Laguna de Aculeo in central Chile has begun to refill. Landsat captured the dry image on the left in May 2023, and the image on the right in September 2023 after an intense winter storm.
Image source: NASA Landsat Image Gallery

Unlocking the full potential of Earth observation data requires us to change how we we make scientific discoveries and who is involved. This competition supports NASA's initiative to Transform to Open Science (TOPS) and to make Earth data accessible to a broader audience.

Open science is defined as the principle and practice of making research products and processes available to all, while respecting diverse cultures, maintaining security and privacy, and fostering collaborations, reproducibility and equity.

About the project team

This competition was created on behalf of NASA (the National Aeronautics and Space Administration) and UNVIE (the U.S. Mission to International Organizations in Vienna), in collaboration with UNOOSA (the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs). It is managed by the NASA Tournament Lab.

NASA's Open Source Science Initiative (OSSI) is NASA’s approach for putting open science into practice. OSSI is a comprehensive program of activities to enable and support moving science towards openness, including policy adjustments, supporting open-source software, and enabling cyberinfrastructure.

NASA’s Transform to Open Science (TOPS) is a 5-year initiative to accelerate the adoption of open science through community engagement and training. TOPS provides the visibility, advocacy, and community resources to support and enable the shift to open science.

The U.S. Mission to International Organizations in Vienna (UNVIE) conducts effective multilateral diplomacy with International Organizations in Vienna to advance U.S. national interests. UNVIE works with the following seven major organizations of the United Nations system based in Vienna:

  • International Atomic Energy Agency
  • UN Office on Drugs and Crime
  • Preparatory Commission of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization
  • UN Office for Outer Space Affairs
  • UN Commission on International Trade Law
  • International Narcotics Control Board
  • UN Industrial Development Organization (of which the United States is not a member)

UNVIE also covers two Vienna-based export control regimes (the Nuclear Suppliers Group and the Wassenaar Arrangement, and the Hague Code of Conduct Against Ballistic Missile Proliferation) as well as the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Laxenburg, Austria.

The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) works to promote international cooperation in the peaceful use and exploration of space, and in the utilization of space science and technology for sustainable economic and social development. The Office assists any United Nations Member States to establish legal and regulatory frameworks to govern space activities, and strengthens the capacity of developing countries to use space science technology and applications for development by helping to integrate space capabilities into national development programs.

Meet the judges

Winners will be selected by a representative panel of experts in Earth observation data, open science, and the Sustainable Development Goals.

  • Anne-Claire Grossias, Associate Program Officer, UN Office for Outer Space Affairs
  • Cynthia Hall, Support Scientist, Earth Science Division, NASA
  • Dr. Kenneth Mubea, Capacity Development Lead, Digital Earth Africa
  • Victoria Neema, Earth Observation Data Scientist, Digital Earth Africa
  • Thomas Whitney, First Secretary - Export Controls and Outer Space Affairs, U.S. Mission to International Organizations in Vienna