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A High Level Look at Satellites

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A High Level Look at Satellites

A High Level Look at Satellites

View the full-size version of the first visualization to see in full detail.

Satellites rarely get much attention, but they’re the hubs that keep our modern world connected. Just how many satellites are orbiting around Earth? Who’s launching them? And, what exactly are they doing up there anyway? These are good questions. Let’s dig in.

Today’s visualization comes to us from Carey Spies, and while it is based on older data, it provides a useful breakdown of the types of satellites that orbit the Earth.

There are now nearly 1,500 satellites in orbit in 2017, and if SpaceX’s plans for a 4,425-satellite communications network come to fruition, our planet’s exosphere will become even more crowded.

What do satellites actually do?

Satellites are launched into space for a number of reasons.

They do everything from military reconnaissance to keeping our GPS systems working properly. The truly global scope of telecommunications wouldn’t be possible without our expansive network of orbiting satellites. For example, O3b Networks’ 12 satellites provide broadband internet service to emerging markets.

Types of Satellites

Who’s launching satellites?

The United States, with nearly 600 operating satellites, has clearly won the space race in this sense. That said, everyone from Azerbaijan to Vietnam now has equipment in orbit, and the list keeps growing.

The change over time, seen in this interactive map, shows that now practically everyone is in the game:

Launching rockets used to be the sole domain of nations, but the privatization of spaceflight has dramatically increased the number of commercial satellites in orbit. Iridium Communications, for example, has a constellation of 70+ operational satellites.

Anxiety in the Exosphere

Operating satellites are only one part of the equation. Sputnik I was launched into space nearly 60 years ago, and as one might guess, a lot of obsolete and dead equipment has built up over that time. The United States Space Surveillance Network estimates that there are 21,000 objects larger than 10cm orbiting the Earth. An increase in “space junk” could have major implications, as even tiny objects can cause severe damage to equipment.

We must cooperate now to guarantee economically vital spaceflight.

– Brigitte Zypries, German Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy

Another looming issue is the potential weaponization of space. Until now, nations have operated under the “gentlemen’s agreement” that nothing launched into space should be weaponized, but the U.S., China, and Russia have all been accused of taking steps towards putting destructive objects into orbit. Beyond the obvious implications of conflict in space, damaged satellites would also exacerbate the aforementioned “space junk” problem.

What’s on the Horizon

While companies like SpaceX are looking for ways to reduce the overall cost of launching rockets into space, other innovations may also make it easier than ever to put structures into orbit. The Archinaut Program – which received $20 million in funding from NASA – is looking at ways to manufacture and assemble structures in space.

One thing is for certain; space is about to get a whole lot more crowded.

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Data Visualization

Visualizing the Happiest Country on Every Continent

Where are the happiest, least happy, and fastest improving countries worldwide? We’ve broken down this annual ranking by region to answer that question.

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Visualizing the Happiest Country on Every Continent

The state of our world is shifting beneath our feet — economics alone no longer equate to satisfaction, let alone happiness.

Today’s visualization pulls data from the seventh World Happiness Report 2019, which ranks 156 countries by their happiness levels. We’ve previously shown the variables used to measure happiness in this report, but here, we break down rankings by continent and region for a clearer picture of where each country lies.

happiness north america map

North America

Unhappy Americans have caused the country to tumble in rankings for a third straight year, despite evidence that things are generally looking up. The report attributes much of this erosion to a variety of addictions: opioids, workaholism, gambling, internet, exercise, and even shopping are among them.

Haiti is the least happy country in this region. The country is still struggling to rebuild sanitation infrastructure and other educational and healthcare programs, despite foreign aid.

In brighter news, Nicaragua is seeing great gains in happiness levels, as the country makes a concentrated effort to reduce poverty.

happiness south america map

South America

In South America, the majority of countries cluster around a score of six on the happiness scale.

The one notable exception to this is Venezuela, which is faltering in both happiness rank and regional improvement. The nation’s hyperinflation and humanitarian crisis both show no signs of slowing down.

happiness europe map

Europe

Finland comes out on top of the world for a second consecutive year, and it’s not difficult to see why. The country boasts a stable work-life balance, bolstered by a comprehensive welfare state.

Scandinavian countries appear among the happiest nations for similar very reasons — elevating the region’s score to 16% above the global average.

On the flip side, Ukraine is the unhappiest, likely intensified by the ongoing war in southeastern Donbass. Greece is the least improved, as it continues to heal from the sovereign debt crisis.

happiness middle east map

Middle East and Central Asia

Uzbekistan shows the swiftest regional improvement, as the country has launched an ambitious reform agenda for greater economic, social, and political development and openness.

Unfortunately, Syria’s continued civil war comes with a heavy price for its people and economy, as does the Palestinian-Israeli conflict — although the latter doesn’t seem to impact Israel’s happiness ranking. In fact, Israel finished with the 13th best score, globally.

happiness asia 2019

Rest of Asia and Oceania

In East Asia, the average happiness score is quite close to the global average, with Taiwan standing out as the happiest country.

Singapore out-competes other countries within Southeast Asia, despite only being home to a population of 5.6 million. Its neighbor Malaysia, however, plunged from 35th to 80th place.

Oceania stands alone – Australia and New Zealand are closely matched in their individual happiness scores.

happiness africa map

Africa

The African continent as a whole fares 19.2% below the global average. But there are silver linings, with strong strides towards improvement being made.

Mauritius benefits from good governance and a buoyant tourism sector — with visitor arrivals equal to the island’s 1.3 million population. Meanwhile, Benin has soared in the rankings, and is supported by the World Bank in key structural reforms such as poverty reduction and access to basic services.

What could these rankings look like in another ten years?

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Data Visualization

Animation: 200 Years of U.S. Immigration As Tree Rings

Since 1830, there have been four major waves of U.S. immigration – and this unique video depicts the influx of immigrants as rings in a tree trunk.

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If you walk down the streets in the United States, the odds are that one in every four people you’ll see is an immigrant, or was born to immigrant parents.

While those odds might seem high, the truth is nearly everyone in the U.S. hails from someplace else if you look far back enough.

Visualizing U.S. Immigration

Today’s intriguing visualization was created by professors Pedro M. Cruz and John Wihbey from Northeastern University, and it depicts U.S. immigration from 1830 until 2015, as rings in a growing tree trunk.

The researchers turned registered U.S. Census data into an estimate for the total number of immigrants arriving each decade, and then the yearly figures in the visualization. One caveat is that it does not account for the populations of slaves, or indigenous communities.

From the Old to the New World

The pattern of U.S. immigration can be explained in four major waves overall:

U.S. Immigration Waves

The origins of U.S. immigrant populations transform from era to era. Which events influenced each wave?

Frontier Expansion: 1830-1880

  • Cheap farmland and the promise of economic growth in the first Industrial Revolution spurred large-scale immigration from Britain, Germany, and other parts of Central Europe.
  • The Irish Potato Famine from 1845 to 1849 drove many immigrants from Ireland over to the U.S.
  • The 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe ended the Mexican-American war, and extended U.S. citizenship to over 70,000 Mexican residents.

Industrialization: 1880-1915

  • Immigrant mobility increased with the introduction of large steam-powered ships. The expansion of railroads in Europe also made it easier for people to reach oceanic ports.
  • On the other hand, the Chinese Exclusion act in 1882 prohibited Chinese laborers from entry.
  • In 1892, the famous Ellis Island opened; the first federal immigration station provided a gateway for over 12 million people.

The Great Pause: 1915-1965

  • The Immigration Act of 1924 enacted quotas on immigrant numbers, restricting groups from countries in Southern and Eastern Europe, and virtually all immigrants of Asian origin.
  • The Great Depression, and subsequent World Wars also complicated immigration matters as many came to seek refuge in the United States.

Post-1965 Immigration: 1965-Present

  • The Hart-Cellber (Immigration and Naturalization Act) of 1965 overturned all previous quotas based on national origin. Family unification and an increase in skilled labor were two major aims of this act.
  • This decision significantly impacted the U.S. demographic makeup in the following decades, as more immigrants of Latin, Asian, and African descent entered the country.

E Pluribus Unum (From Many, One)

While others have mapped two centuries of immigration before, few have captured its sheer scale and impact quite as strikingly. The researchers explain their reasoning behind this metaphor of tree rings:

This idea lends itself to the representation of history itself, as it shows a sequence of events that have left a mark and shaped the present. If cells leave a mark in the tree, so can incoming immigrants be seen as natural contributors to the growth of a trunk that is the United States.

It’s no wonder that this animation showing U.S. immigration won Gold for the “People, Language, and Identity” and “Most Beautiful” categories at the 2018 Kantar Information is Beautiful Awards.

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