Google has made it possible for Internet users to look at historical imagery of the Earth’s surface over time. The company has been working with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), NASA and TIME on the Timelapse project, and is releasing over twenty-five years worth of imagery of Earth taken from space, compiled into interactive timelapse experiences.
Google says it’s the most comprehensive picture of the planet ever made available to the public.
“The images were collected as part of an ongoing joint mission between the USGS and NASA called Landsat,” explains Rebecca Moore, Engineering Manager, Google Earth Engine & Earth Outreach. “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,” she adds. “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.”
Finally, Google worked with the CREATE Lab at Carnegie Mellon Uinversity to convert the Earth images into HTML5 animations.
The imagery is constructed from millions of satellite images, and is even zoomable. Here are some examples: