In 2013, Google launched Timelapse, a project that utilizes satellite images to show us how much the world has changed over the past three decades. In its inaugural year, Timelapse drew attention to urban development in Las Vegas and Dubai, as well as the slow death of Alaska’s Columbia glacier.
This year, the video, featuring satellite images from the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, U.S. Geological Survey, and European Space Agency’s Copernicus Program and Sentinel-2A satellite, focuses on a mix of positive and negative developments between 1984 to 2016: the expansion of the Panama Canal, for example, which many consider to be the greatest engineering feat of the 20th century, and the 2011 tsunami damage to a nuclear power plant in Fukushima, Japan. (A Timelapse tour, featuring 10-second sweeps of individual locations, is available on Google Earth’s YouTube channel.)
Using the Google Earth Engine cloud-computing model, program engineers sifted through 3 quadrillion pixels from over 5 million satellite images, using the best pixels to generate 33 mosaics of the planet (one for each year). Next, they encoded these images into 25 million overlapping, multi-resolution video tiles, made interactively explorable by Carnegie Mellon University CREATE Lab’s Time Machine library, a platform for creating and viewing zoomable timelapses over space and time.
The result is a breathtaking birds-eye view of the planet, revealing the good, the bad, and the beautiful of our ever-changing world.
Filed Under: Aerospace + defense