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Satellite photos show impressive crowds on Inauguration Day


Photo courtesy of GeoEye

The company GeoEye released a cool gallery of satellite images showing the crowds in Washington on Inauguration Day.

The company’s press release says of one of the featured pictures:

The image was taken by GeoEye’s newest satellite, GeoEye-1, as it moved from north to south along the eastern seaboard of the United States traveling at 17,000 mph or about four miles per second. GeoEye-1 is the world’s highest resolution commercial Earth imaging satellite.

Journalism professor Steve Doig analyzed these images to come up with a crowd estimate of 800,000 people. That’s a lot of spectators — but lower than many estimates.

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Doig has a good story at MSNBC that explains how estimating crowd sizes is often, unfortunately, “much more about public relations than a quest for truth.”

Whether the crowd is gathering for an anti-war protest, a sports team’s victory parade, a golf tournament, a pope’s outdoor Mass or the swearing-in of the most powerful man on Earth, organizational reputations and personal egos are ballooned or deflated by public perceptions of whether the crowd is surprisingly large or disappointingly small.

It’s a good read, check it out.