Is Walt Disney World visible from space?

Olivier S. (NDD#263) (27 Posts)

Born in France (and still living there) I discovered WDW in the mid 1970's when I was 10 during a trip to Florida with my parents. Since then, I am a Disney fan, but also a WDW fan with EPCOT as the prefered park. The Contemporary is my "mythic" hotel even if I never stayed there: it´s because of its futurist look. By the way, I also encountered space exploration during the same trip by visiting KSC. And I am today working as the chief editor of a space news website for a scientific park in France. Guess you can see the importance of this Florida trip and the others after...


 

At about 250 miles above our heads, six astronauts live aboard the International Space Station (sometimes it’s three astronauts for some days when the crew changes by half). This station, as its name implies, is an international cooperation. It involves USA, Russia, Japan, Canada and Europe.

As part of the outreach about the ISS, it is possible to ask the astronauts questions. And that’s how a young girl asked if Walt Disney World was visible from space. Here is the NASA video with the question and also the answer from Reid Wiseman (twitter link), who was aboard the station at that time (he was there for six months, from May to November 2014).

As Walt Disney World is huge, you may be astonished that it is not visible from space, especially as it is often believed that China’s Great Wall is… Well, first of all, the fact that astronauts can see China’s Great Wall from orbit is an urban legend. Sure, this construction is very long at some places (it is no longer a continuous wall), but it is also “thin” (the wall is just a few meters wide). For Walt Disney World, a lot of land is untouched, given the laws in Florida, so it is not like looking at a fully urbanized small city or even a big airport as Reid Wiseman gives as examples that he can see from space.

So, how does look Walt Disney World from space? Well, with its eyes, an astronaut will see Florida like this NASA picture below.

florida-general As you can see, it is not that easy to spot where Walt Disney World is. I put some labels to help, but it is clear that you can’t see the parks only with your eyes from the ISS.

By night, you would think that the lights could do some help. But, there are a lot of lights in the Orlando area! See this wonderful picture at night made from the ISS in October, 2014. I added a label to show the rather easy to spot Orlando area, but finding WDW is still difficult.

florida-night With telephoto lenses, it is beginning to be possible to find WDW. This picture was made in 2005 with a 180 mm telephoto from the ISS. I positioned North at the top and labels show the International Airport (MCO), as well as Epcot and the Magic Kingdom (MK) area (in this circle includes the Contemporary Resort).

wdw-telephoto However, looking at Walt Disney World from space can indeed be very interesting… if you use the satellites. Earth observation satellites are equipped with very powerful imaging devices that can give sub-metric resolution images. If you go to Google Maps or use the Google Earth software, most of the images you see are from satellites. Here is a general view of Walt Disney World in Google Earth.

satellite-wdw

Below, the main parks. All pictures from Google Earth.

The Magic Kingdom

satellite-mk

Epcot

satellite-epcot

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

satellite-dhs

Disney’s Animal Kingdom

satellite-AK

Typhoon Lagoon

satellite-TL

Blizzard Beach

satellite-BB

And now, the resolution you can have by zooming, for example, Canada Pavilion in Epcot. You can see the cars parked backstage (on the left). The circle vision theater is obvious with its white, circular shape hidden from the view when in the park. Notice that you can see people, especially their shadows.

satellite-canadaKeep in mind that this is the resolution for civil satellites. Military spy satellites can see much sharper, but their specifications are classified…

Don’t hesitate to “visit” Walt Disney World from space by satellite on the web with Google Maps, as well as other Disney parks. It is quite interesting!
Here are the links:

Walt Disney World

Disneyland California

Tokyo Disneyland

Disneyland Paris

Hong Kong Disneyland

Shanghai Disneyland (construction)