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.
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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