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Unmanned _ Earth Observations _ Processed images from Earth orbiting spacecraft

Posted by: Bjorn Jonsson Nov 15 2012, 12:37 AM

For some reason it didn't come to my attention until recently (less than a year ago) that the entire Landsat imagery plus a lot of data from other Earth orbiting spacecraft is freely available for download at . Maybe this is because for a long time it was more difficult to find good and freely available global maps (or get data to make maps) of the Earth than it was for other planets/satellites - I somehow was under the impression that the vast majority of Earth imagery was commercial.

The Earth is visually a really spectacular planet (in my opinion possibly even the most photogenic body in the entire solar system) so it's possible to get spectacular results by downloading some of this data. The data can be selected by spacecraft, instrument, location, months/years, cloud cover percentage etc.

Data is available from several Landsat satellites but the best data is from Landsat 7; Landsat 5 is also good. This is multispectral data with a resolution of 30 meters/pixel. Here is an experimental and spectacular 12 frame mosaic showing southern Greenland (10% the original size):

The full size version (19000 pixels square) plus additional information can be seen in at the This image shows a spectacular and complex 'maze' of long and narrow fjords and islands, narrow valleys flanked by steep mountains, glaciers and glacial rivers, countless lakes and ponds and in general a landscape that has been shaped by advancing and retreating glaciers, depending on climate. One important thing to note is that overall this data turned out to be easier to process than is typical for data from other planets.

Posted by: Bjorn Jonsson Jun 8 2013, 06:15 PM

Landsat 8 was launched in February. Following a period of checkouts and calibrations it started regular operations in late May. Below is a mosaic of three Landsat 8 images showing a part of northern Iceland. The full size version (12020x18130 pixels) can be, the version below is 30% of the original size:

The images were obtained on June 4, 2013 near local noon. The resolution of the full size version is 30 m/pixel. At this time the weather was characterized by strong southerly winds and mountain waves are prominent, especially left of center.

The Landsat 8 image data is of significantly higher quality than earlier Landsat data. In particular, the images are 16 bits which is significant when dealing with high dynamic range scenes where glaciers, snow and clouds are visible together with relatively dark terrain. In this case, the clouds were typically brighter than the dark terrain by a factor of ~5 in the original images . Some areas have relatively fresh snow that is even brighter. The version above has been processed to brighten the dark terrain without losing too much of the detailed structure visible in the clouds.

These images are made available shortly after acquisition, for example I downloaded some images only several hours after they were taken.

Posted by: scalbers Feb 13 2015, 09:49 PM

There are some other satellites where color processing can be considered of the land surface and clouds. This includes quite a few spectral bands in DISCOVR - (near future - as discussed in, VIIRS, and GOES-R ABI (future).

So for the present, we can consider VIIRS polar orbiter also having

GOES-R ABI will have good rapid update frequency (just minutes) in geosynchronous orbit, though it only has

Some other geosynchronous weather satellites (apart from GOES) have or will have multiple visible bands.


Posted by: Sean Oct 28 2017, 12:01 AM

Here are some processed, retimed sequences from ISS courtesy of NASA & Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit...

Posted by: monty python Oct 28 2017, 06:01 AM

THANK YOU! Works of art.

Posted by: ugordan Oct 29 2017, 12:20 PM

QUOTE (Sean @ Oct 28 2017, 01:01 AM) *
Here are some processed, retimed sequences from ISS courtesy of NASA & Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit...

Beautiful videos, but the "Nadir" one has me scratching my head. Based on the inclination of the ISS orbit and the ground track motion over Italy, it makes me think the sequence is actually running backwards in time?

Also, in the aurora video, it's almost just as fascinating to look for satellites moving in the background as dim dots as well as a sunglint off of one at 11 seconds into the video.

Posted by: Sean Oct 29 2017, 12:28 PM

It is indeed running backwards. I should have specified this, sorry. It took an age to get this rendered and it slipped my mind. Purely an aesthetic choice.

Posted by: nprev Nov 1 2017, 11:47 PM

Spellbinding, Sean. smile.gif

Posted by: Sean Dec 31 2017, 04:45 PM

Moonlight Flight

Expedition 53

November 5, 2017 from 22:29:56 to 23:03:24 GMT

From the South Atlantic Ocean to Kazakhstan

Original timelapse extended x3, many repairs & processed.

‘Kangaru’ by Jóhann Jóhannsson

Posted by: monty python Jan 1 2018, 08:30 AM

Very nice. Thank You!

Posted by: Sean Jan 2 2018, 01:28 AM

Here is the same source material re-tweened in 60fps to approximate real time based on 1,998 source frame count & 22:29:56 to 23:03:24 time stamps

3 minute sequence on Flickr...

I took care to choose footage that contained no lightning as that would spoil the intent, though it is possible to repair those flashes before tweening and re-insert them during real time pass.

Posted by: Sean Jan 3 2018, 04:27 AM

Africa to Japan

Expedition 34

January 4, 2013 from 05:23:00 to 05:56:16 GMT

From the border of Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo to just east of Japan.

Original timelapse extended x5 & processed.

'Odi et Amo' by Jóhann Jóhannsson

Source extended x60 to approximate real time ( 3 minute excerpt )

Finally after a 22 hour process & 3 hour upload

'Somnus' by Phaeleh

Posted by: Sean Feb 5 2018, 07:03 PM

I made a movie.

Music by Phaeleh

Orbit is a real time reconstruction of time lapse photography taken on board the International Space Station by NASA's Earth Science & Remote Sensing Unit.

The structure of the film is built around a nested selection of Phaeleh's last three albums; Lost Time, Illusion of the Tale & Somnus. The tone & pacing of each track influenced the choice of material used.

Typically each time lapse sequence was photographed at 1 frame per second.

Each sequence was processed in Photoshop. A dirtmap was made in order to repair dust, blemishes and hot pixel artifacts that would otherwise confuse the re-timing phase of the workflow resulting in strobes and distracting blurs.

Image processing techniques were used to emphasize features on the Earth's surface. Every sequence consists of a number of layers that when masked, processed & blended correctly produce the final look of each shot.

To make sure each sequence was recreated faithfully to the actual rate of speed observed I referenced time-stamps on the first and last frame in the sequence and used frame interpolation software to produce the other 59 frames.

The length of the film is exactly the length of time it takes ISS to orbit the Earth once, 92 minutes & 39 seconds.

Posted by: Sean Feb 8 2018, 08:36 PM


Tropical Cyclone Cebile from January 30th as photographed by Himawari8 [time-lapse] & ISS ESRSU [ real time time-lapse reconstruct ]

Posted by: Sean Feb 20 2018, 06:44 PM

Volcano Sinabung time-lapse interpolation from Himawari8

Posted by: PaulH51 Feb 21 2018, 03:53 AM

QUOTE (Sean @ Feb 21 2018, 02:44 AM) *
Volcano Sinabung time-lapse interpolation from Himawari8

Thanks for that Sean, only about 300km from my place smile.gif

Posted by: scalbers Feb 25 2018, 05:29 PM

Sean - wonderful Cebile animations with the stadium view. The volcano is pretty nice as well. A couple of things I've been studying recently are forest fires and dust storms if you ever come across these phenomena.

Posted by: Sean Mar 15 2018, 01:22 PM

Eye of Gita

Upscaled, cropped, resized to 4k, processed and retimed.

Posted by: PaulH51 Mar 16 2018, 08:31 AM

Nice smile.gif Thanks Sean

Posted by: Sean Mar 16 2018, 02:20 PM

Thanks Paul!


Filled in time-lapse gaps for the Himawari footage before re-timing.

For the new real time shot I repaired, stabilized, de-flickered, processed, cropped & retimed.

Posted by: Sean Mar 18 2018, 05:27 PM

NASA Earth posted this image recently so I decided to clean all the crud from ISS windows & reduce jpg artifacts...

Posted by: scalbers Mar 31 2018, 10:08 PM

Really neat ORBIT movie from Sean that I'm just catching up on - particularly with the leisurely real-time aspect. Here is an evolving attempt at rendering a portion of the Gibraltar view at about 2:05. Aiming at true color/contrast the image looks relatively subdued. The snow on the mountains helps provide reference points to compare locations.

Also for comparison is a frame from the NASA version of the video:

QUOTE (Sean @ Feb 5 2018, 07:03 PM) *
I made a movie.

Posted by: Sean May 19 2018, 06:33 PM

Thanks Steve... that's pretty close to the source... obviously 'Orbit' is quite processed which I hope doesn't burn your retina much. I'd be interested to know what global maps you are using.

Cloudheads mosaic + details. ( stitched, processed, repaired )

Posted by: scalbers May 20 2018, 07:25 PM

Nice cloud view Sean - this type of image would be interesting to holistically check atmospheric model output. The simulated Gibraltar images are driven with land surface albedo derived from 500m Blue Marble Next Generation image data. Terrain is from an old 1km USGS database. I added in some synthetic aerosols, though there are models that try to produce them in real-time.

Posted by: scalbers Jul 19 2018, 03:30 PM

This simulated version of Gibraltar has improved land brightness compared with post #22. The radiance calculations for scattered light and reflected light are now being handled more consistently.

Posted by: Sean Aug 4 2018, 01:36 PM

Saudi Cloudscape from ISS expedition 47

8 frame composite made from raw file with some fill & repair

*updated with correct exposure

Posted by: Sean Aug 7 2018, 06:25 PM

Here is a very quick test of a retimed time-lapse made from raw files.... big quality improvement over the standard JPG compressed files.

Nile Night

Posted by: Sean Sep 3 2018, 11:40 AM

Sky River &

Posted by: monty python Sep 4 2018, 07:21 AM

Sean, thank you so much. ART!

Posted by: Sean Sep 10 2018, 02:36 AM

4k on &

Posted by: Sean Sep 10 2018, 09:57 PM

9th September 2018

4k on &

Posted by: Sean Sep 11 2018, 09:46 PM

4k on &

Posted by: Sean Sep 17 2018, 10:07 AM

6 days of Typhoon Mangkhut

4k version on

Posted by: Sean Sep 17 2018, 06:30 PM

Typhoon Mangkhut, projected, 8k

September 13th

Posted by: Sean Sep 17 2018, 09:39 PM

Typhoon Mangkhut projected [animation]

September 13

Posted by: scalbers Sep 27 2018, 08:03 PM

Looks very nice Sean. I wonder if these recent examples are also using time interpolation (optical flow)?

Posted by: Sean Sep 27 2018, 10:06 PM

QUOTE (scalbers @ Sep 27 2018, 09:03 PM) *
Looks very nice Sean. I wonder if these recent examples are also using time interpolation (optical flow)?

Yes, all of my Himawari animations are interpolated.

Posted by: scalbers Oct 13 2018, 05:24 PM

Nice to know. FYI, the GOES-16 mesoscale sectors have images for Hurricane Michael in one-minute timesteps. I suppose one can downscale the time, zooming into the eye to see time steps of just seconds.

There is some experimental GOES-17 imagery (not yet public) that has real images on a 6-second time scale.

GOES-16 "raw" image data is available on the AWS cloud if one wants to get this type of data - perhaps you already are.

Posted by: Sean Nov 22 2018, 09:15 PM

Ah that is good information to have Steve, thanks. I may ping you later on that.

For those that rightfully avoid social media I thought I would share a time-lapse of the recent Progress re-supply launch...

Posted by: John Moore Nov 22 2018, 09:26 PM

Super, Seán.


Posted by: MahFL Nov 23 2018, 12:54 AM

QUOTE (scalbers @ Oct 13 2018, 05:24 PM) *
Nice to know. FYI, the GOES-16 mesoscale sectors have images for Hurricane Michael in one-minute timesteps. I suppose one can downscale the time, zooming into the eye to see time steps of just seconds.

There is some experimental GOES-17 imagery (not yet public) that has real images on a 6-second time scale.

GOES-16 "raw" image data is available on the AWS cloud if one want to get this type of data - perhaps you already are.

They can do 30 second updates if they use both Meso sectors on the same target.

Posted by: Sean Nov 25 2018, 02:36 AM

Rocket Launch

Progress MS-10 resupply ship bound for ISS launches from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, as seen from the International Space Station on November 16th, 2018.

Posted by: wildespace Nov 25 2018, 07:54 AM

Great work as always, Sean. (The last video you linked only goes up to 1080p though)

Individual images from the timelapse can be found here:

It's interesting to analyse the images to spot specific stages of the launch.

Here's the moment the rocket discarded its four strap-on boosters:

Third stage ignition:

The second (core) stage burn up on reentry:

You can see the pieces of it trailing behind. Very spectatuclar!

Oh, and the camera also caught a couple of meteors:

I'm curious what those red lights on the ground are:

Posted by: vikingmars Nov 25 2018, 08:57 AM

Thank you so much Sean for the very IMPRESSIVE video and for Wildespace to outline the most important visual steps of the launch
Congratulations for both of you wheel.gif wheel.gif wheel.gif wheel.gif wheel.gif wheel.gif

Posted by: Sean Nov 25 2018, 11:07 AM

Thanks for that breakdown Wildespace.

It takes Youtube a while to process 4k versions but it should show up eventually.

Re-watching this I can spot a number of interpolation glitches I will need to repair so there will probably be a v2 when I can find the time.

Youtube 4k is still pending... here is the

Posted by: avisolo Nov 26 2018, 08:16 AM

Earth photographed from NASA's Lunar Orbiter V in 1967:

Posted by: Sean Nov 26 2018, 08:52 PM

Italian Blue

Posted by: Sean Nov 26 2018, 09:00 PM

In The Emerald

Posted by: Sean Nov 26 2018, 09:01 PM

Star Sky

Posted by: scalbers Jan 19 2019, 01:26 AM

An enhanced view of the sun glint in the Pacific today from the CIRA Slider Website:

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