NewsNovember 21, 2014

Earth, Now Available in Ultra High Definition

Brian Kahn

By Brian Kahn

Follow @blkahn

A year in weather in high definition from space was pretty amazing and so was a similar sharp take on the spring equinox. But a five day view of the planet from space in ultra high definition is a whole other level of awesome.

The imagery from mid-May 2011 comes courtesy of Russia’s high flying Elektro-L weather satellite, which sits in high Earth orbit more than 26,000 miles above the planet’s surface. This type of satellite actually moves in concert with the Earth, staying above the same location. It sees one sunrise and one sunset a day over that location, just like the folks on the ground, but different than, say, the International Space Station, which sees about 15 sunrises and sunsets in a given 24-hour period.

Looking at the same spot all the time makes the satellite an invaluable tool for tracking weather patterns and issuing accurate weather forecasts. The U.S., European Union, Japan and a whole host of countries have satellites circling at that altitude for just that purpose, as well as for broadcasting TV shows and supporting telecommunications. And of course there’s the added bonus of providing a spectacular view of the planet.

To get the user-friendly view, YouTube science video editor extraordinaire James Tyrwhitt-Drake processed a series of 121-megapixel images sent back to Earth every 30 minutes from May 15-19 including some in the infrared range. The ones coming from the infrared range tend to see green vegetation as orange so a little post-processing magic was required to turn those oranges to the green most of us are more familiar with. Finally, to create a smooth animation rather than just a series of snapshots, a few little tweaks were added to stitch the images together into a movie in ultra high definition, known in audio-visual geek speak as 4K. The result speaks for itself.

Well, actually it doesn’t since the video is silent so feel free to take a Friday work break, crank the resolution to the aforementioned 4K and jam out to some mellow tunes from Aphex Twin’s latest release.

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