Of course, many might not know what Landsat is, it is in fact a series of Earth-observing satellite missions jointly managed by NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey that has been continuously circling the Earth and collecting data about its surface by making its images available on Google Earth. First launched on July 23, 1972, Landsat is now the longest running program for the acquisition of satellite imagery of Earth.
“Over the years, Landsat has collected petabytes of images offering an historic perspective on planetary change that can help scientists, independent researchers, and nations make informed economic and environmental policy decisions,” Google Earth Engine software engineer Eric Nguyen and Carnegie Mellon University Visiting Researcher Randy Sargent say in a joint blog post.
Interestingly, a large number images of the Earth taken by Landsat satellites over the years, which have been orbiting the globe every 16 days since July 1972, are now available in the form of timelapse videos. Google said it has been working with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and Carnegie Mellon University to bring the image collection online.
“With them you can travel through time, from 1999-2011, to see the transformation of our planet -- whether it is deforestation in the Amazon, urban growth in Las Vegas or the difference in snow coverage between the seasons,” Google wrote in a post on its blog.
An artist's rendition of the next Landsat satellite, the Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM) that will launch in Feb. 2013. Credit: NASA.
As a matter of fact, it is the longest-running record of the Earth's landscape that has ever been recorded. The satellites circles from pole to pole, capturing every inch of its surface and collecting data, before it repeats the same process. It allows scientists to monitor how the Earth changes over time and keep track of its health.
“We believe these may be the largest video frames ever created. If you could see the entire video at full resolution, a single frame would be 1.78 terapixels which is 18 football fields' worth of computer screens laid side-by-side,” Google said.
“Google Earth Engine makes it possible for this data to be accessed and used by scientists and others no matter where they are in the world. Watch the video below to learn more about the history of the Landsat program and how Google Earth Engine was used to process and analyze this enormous archive of planetary imagery.”
You can find a featured gallery of videos here. Included are the growth of Las Vegas, the drying of the Aral Sea, and the Amazon’s deforestation, to name a few.
Check out the clip below.