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NASA has made 18 years of satellite images of Earth available for anyone to explore, on their interactive Worldview application. Earth-observing instruments aboard NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites have recorded two decades of planetary change. Now, for the first time, all that imagery — from the first operational image to imagery acquired today – is available for you to access. And there’s a lot to see.
This achievement is the result of more than a half-decade of work by several NASA teams, and represents the longest continuous daily global satellite observation record of Earth ever compiled.
According to a NASA statement:
The public can now browse all global imagery from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument [instrument onboard the satellites] quickly and easily from the comfort of a home computer. All global MODIS imagery dating back to the operational start of MODIS in 2000 is available through NASA’s Global Imagery Browse Services (GIBS) for viewing using NASA’s Worldview application. And there’s a lot to see.
For researchers, the ability to rapidly access and explore all MODIS global imagery greatly improves their use of these data. Santiago Gassó is an associate research scientist with NASA’s Goddard Earth Sciences Technology And Research program at Morgan State University, Baltimore. He said:
In the ’80s and ’90s, if you wanted to look at, say, clouds off the coast of California, you had to figure out the time of year when it was best to look at these clouds, then place a data request for a specific window of days when you thought the satellite overflew the area. You would get a physical tape with these images and have to put this into the processing system. Only then would you know if the image was usable. This process used to take from days to weeks.
Now, you can look at images for days, weeks and even years in a matter of minutes in Worldview, immediately find the images you need, and download them for use. It’s fantastic!
Bottom line: NASA’s Worldview application lets the public access 20 years of satellite images of Earth.
Eleanor Imster has helped write and edit EarthSky since 1995. She was an integral part of the award-winning EarthSky radio series almost since it began until it ended in 2013. Today, as Lead Editor at EarthSky.org, she helps present the science and nature stories and photos you enjoy. She also serves as one of the voices of EarthSky on social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter and G+. She and her husband live in Tennessee and have two grown sons.