Enormous cloudbanks roll along as day changes to night on our planet Earth in this incredibly high resolution time-lapse video.

The sequence was created by James Drake, a student at the University of Victoria in Canada, using data from the Russian Federal Space Agency’s Elektro-L 1 satellite.

Launched in 2011, Elektro-L flies in geosynchronous orbit roughly 22,000 miles above the Indian Ocean. Every half hour, it takes a 121-megapixel image of the entire Earth. The data is used to take real-time observations of clouds and storm systems for weather forecasting.

Drake first came across these images when he saw a small corner of one displayed at the website Universe Today. Instantly hooked, he typed up some e-mails, used Google Translate to convert them to Russian, and sent inquiries to Roscosmos. They put him in touch with the data company that processes the pictures, which agreed to send him more.

“The first time I had downloaded the images, I got this sense of wonder and awe,” he said. “I was looking at this whole disk and it’s almost something that you can hold in your hand — this beautiful intricate marble, covered in a thin crust of water and air.”

Drake has since gathered more than 350 of these images and processed them himself. He now hosts them on his website, which zooms in on the incredibly detailed photos to feature aircraft contrails over the ocean, docks and industrial areas in China, fractal river networks in Africa, and huge cloud spirals over Ukraine.

In honor of Earth Day, Wired has put together a gallery featuring his most astounding images and videos of our glorious home planet.

Northern Hemisphere
Several days pass in this time-lapse movie, made by stitching together dozens of the high-resolution Earth images.

Time-lapse video. EARTH

Changing Weather
The Elektro-L 1 satellite captures the changing weather of the planet below each half hour. The top image was taken May 14, while the lower image, which shows large shifting weather patterns, was taken months later, in October.

Greece and Italy
The familiar boot-shaped Italian peninsula can be seen near the Earth’s limb in this image. In the foreground are the Greek islands and Turkey.

Africa and Madagascar
Sub-Saharan Africa crowds against the limb of the Earth while the island of Madagascar sits to the east

Black Sea
The waters of the Black Sea separate Europe and western Asia, which meet at the Bosphorus Strait.

Down Under
Nearly half the continent and country of Australia disappear just beyond where the Elektro-L satellite can see.

India and Sri Lanka
No one could mistake the outline of the Indian subcontinent, bounded on the east and west by the ocean and the enormous Himalayas to the north.

Caspian Sea
The world's largest lake, the Caspian Sea, is bounded by Russia, Iran, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, and Kazakhstan.

A River in Egypt
Almost the entire length of the Nile River, the longest on Earth, can be seen winding its way through this image.

Mighty Spiral
An enormous spiral-shaped cloud hovers over the ocean in this image.

Korean Peninsula
This picture features the eastern parts of China along with the Korean peninsula and, further back, the islands of Japan. Each picture is taken in four color channels, including one that sees infrared light.
Looking closely at the lower right corner, you can spot straight lines and haze of aircraft contrails traveling between China and Japan.
Images: NTs OMZ

Whole Earth

Days pass with nothing but the tranquil changing of clouds over the entire disk of the Earth in this time-lapse video.

The video’s author, James Drake, says that he sometimes gets forgets about the beauty while in the middle of processing the huge amounts of data. But every once in a while he steps back and goes, “Wow.”

“The Earth is so complex,” he said. “You can zoom in on any part and see these fractal patterns, which can keep on going in. I remember that this is our home; this is our spaceship — a tiny spinning rock orbiting a giant ball of fire. It’s beautiful and absurd.”

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Responses to "Celebrate Earth Day in Super High Resolution (Videos)"

  1. Anonymous says:

    The Earth without Political Boundaries Is Beautiful In These Excellent Pictures-THX

  2. Anonymous says:

    Beautiful work. Thank you!

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