'Timelapse' Project Offers 25 Years of Animated Earth Images From Space [GIFS]

Leige, Belgium, at night from space
“Nightime imagery from orbit provides an instant understanding about humanity’s footprint on the Earth’s surface, .. ” -NASA Scientist[169] This view of Liège, Belgium at night reveals surrounding towns, roads, and agriculture (image credit: NASA)
Ever wish you had a planetary time machine that allowed you to see the progression of geological or industrial changes leading up to our present time?…Ever wanted to see how much your city has grown over the past 25 + years…or view the dramatic loss of forest cover in the Amazon…or the retreat of Alaska’s Columbia glacier…all from space?

Now, thanks to TIME’s ‘Time Lapse’ project, twenty five years (1984 – 2012) of Landsat-captured images of “every spot on Earth” are viewable as time-lapsed, cloud-free, zoomable (and animated) images (and each image in a sequence is stamped with the year it was taken, for easy reference).

The on-line project — a collaboration between TIME, Google, NASA, USGS, and CREATE Lab at Carnegie Mellon University — offers stunning, mesmerizing views of natural and human-made change to the surface of out planet. It is sure to become a popular new tool for citizen explorers and a powerful witness to natural and human-caused impacts to our still beautiful blue planet.

Here is just a sampling of .GIF views to wet your satellite-image appetite (More examples can be found on Google+) [article continues below].


More About ‘Timelapse’

(Quoted from the official Google blog)

The images were collected as part of an ongoing joint mission between the USGS and NASA called Landsat. Their satellites have been observing earth from space since the 1970s—with all of the images sent back to Earth and archived on USGS tape drives that look something like this example (courtesy of the USGS).

We started working with the USGS in 2009 to make this historic archive of earth imagery available online. Using Google Earth Engine technology, we sifted through 2,068,467 images—a total of 909 terabytes of data—to find the highest-quality pixels (e.g., those without clouds), for every year since 1984 and for every spot on Earth. We then compiled these into enormous planetary images, 1.78 terapixels each, one for each year.

As the final step, we worked with the CREATE Lab at Carnegie Mellon University, recipients of a Google Focused Research Award, to convert these annual Earth images into a seamless, browsable HTML5 animation. Check it out on Google’s Timelapse website.

Much like the iconic image of Earth from the Apollo 17 mission—which had a profound effect on many of us—this time-lapse map is not only fascinating to explore, but we also hope it can inform the global community’s thinking about how we live on our planet and the policies that will guide us in the future. A special thanks to all our partners who helped us to make this happen.

(posted on Googleblog by: Rebecca Moore, Engineering Manager, Google Earth Engine & Earth Outreac


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