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New phone controls for you and kids. More Iran hacks as US sanctions loomed A cybersecurity firm said that Iran-linked hackers had deployed phishing emails. Former exec sues Spotify over boys-only events and pay. These Timelapse pictures tell the pretty and not-so-pretty story of a finite planet and how its residents are treating it — razing even as we build, destroying even as we preserve. From space, these megacities look like tumors colonizing the tissue around them.

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I acknowledge my zip code will be used to periodically send me information regarding Grow with Google related events or programming in my area. Landsat was a notable exception, built not for spycraft but for public monitoring of how the human species was altering the surface of the planet. Two generations, eight satellites and millions of pictures later, the space agency, along with the U.

Geological Survey USGS , has accumulated a stunning catalog of images that, when riffled through and stitched together, create a high-definition slide show of our rapidly changing Earth. TIME is proud to host the public unveiling of these images from orbit, which for the first time date all the way back to Over here is Dubai , growing from sparse desert metropolis to modern, sprawling megalopolis.

Over there are the central-pivot irrigation systems turning the sands of Saudi Arabia into an agricultural breadbasket — a surreal green-on-brown polka-dot pattern in the desert.

Elsewhere is the bad news: It took the folks at Google to upgrade these choppy visual sequences from crude flip-book quality to true video footage. With the help of massive amounts of computer muscle, they have scrubbed away cloud cover, filled in missing pixels, digitally stitched puzzle-piece pictures together, until the growing, thriving, sometimes dying planet is revealed in all its dynamic churn. The images are striking not just because of their vast sweep of geography and time but also because of their staggering detail.

The Landsat images, by contrast, weigh in at 1. These Timelapse pictures tell the pretty and not-so-pretty story of a finite planet and how its residents are treating it — razing even as we build, destroying even as we preserve. That was pretty much it for his time in the public eye — not exactly an icon of the wired generation, right? But in , Udall and his staff had an idea. For all the attention the then budding space program was devoting to other planets, our own was being overlooked.

If humanity wanted to protect its threatened natural resources, we first had to be able to keep an eye on them. That meant a satellite or, preferably, multiple satellites that could maintain a steady downward gaze, tracking habitat destruction, urbanization, industrial sprawl and more. For all the bad and misguided ideas that came out of the s, this scheme turned out to be very, very good.

Seven other satellites followed the first into orbit over the years, sometimes replacing ones that had reached the end of their operational life, sometimes joining ones still in operation. The most recent member of the fleet, Landsat 8, went aloft in February. At an altitude of miles km , the satellites make one orbit of Earth every Keep that up for 41 years, maintaining a photographic record of your travels, and you compile a whole lot of pictures — millions of them, which have since been digitized into petabytes, or billions of bytes of data.

In the U. That caught the attention of the folks at Google. While Google Maps and Google Earth were wildly popular with Web users, scientists found the satellite images limiting. A picture of, say, a reservoir or a section of forest could tell you a lot about those sites, but only how they looked at one moment on one day. Collect enough of those pictures and sequence them, and you can create a moving image that shows just how a region has changed environmentally — often for the worse — over the years.

In Google met with Tom Loveland, a lead scientist with the USGS — which is home to the Landsat archives — about turning the trove of images into maps and mini-movies for the use of governments and researchers around the world.

Google and the USGS soon struck a deal, but that was the easy part. First, even though the USGS had millions of images in its vaults, there were still more to be had, most of them tucked away in active and former Landsat ground stations around the world. Google began reaching out to the countries that are home to those facilities, working to repatriate as many of the images as it could.

In one six-month period, it collected half a million pictures, most of them stored in traditional negatives and prints, and began digitizing them. Even getting the already digitized EROS and Landsat images from the USGS to Google took some doing, necessitating the construction of a new digital pipeline that could handle the massive stream of data.

Processing the images required another magnitude of complexity. The atmosphere does not always cooperate when a satellite tries to take a picture from orbit. Everything from cloud cover and industrial haze to smoke from forest fires can obscure the view. Stitching together a panorama, to say nothing of making a moving image, often requires hundreds of images, some of which must be digitally scrubbed to filter out atmospheric interference.

A single, cloud-free map of the world requires 9, discrete images. The pictures, and particularly the movies, that resulted from this painstaking work are astounding. A single pixel measures about 33 yards 30 m square, or roughly the size of a baseball infield. That seems like a lot of ground to pack into a single dot, and the truth is, no one pixel reveals very much. But tens of thousands of them tell rich tales: There is some good news: Already, the public-private collaboration is paying environmental dividends.

Anxious to get a handle on the health of its forests, the government of Mexico contacted Google about putting together a comprehensive map that could reveal how much ground cover is still intact and how much has been lost. Google and Landsat delivered, creating a visual survey made up of 53, images, representing 18 terabytes of data that required 15, hours of computer time to complete.

The process was actually quite quick: Google put a thousand computers to work simultaneously, so the job was completed in a single, rather long workday. A solitary computer would have needed three years.

For governments and environmental scientists, there is a lot of arcane data to extract from the maps and movies.

For everyone else, there is something subtler but just as important: We tend our own tiny plots on Earth, our houses and yards often taking up less room than that infield-size pixel. Starting near the booming frontier town of Fort McMurray, you can see vast chunks of land that have been carved out of the endless arboreal forest, where massive machines dig out the rich, black sand that just might transform the global oil market—unless environmentalists stop it. The oil sands represent a new kind of extreme energy resource that promises to make fossil fuels available far into the future but at a heavy environmental price.

My visit to the Albertan oil sands came late in In the two and a half years since, oil companies there have produced nearly a billion new barrels of crude. As time-lapse satellite images show, much of this development is relatively new, a response to the sharp increase in the price of oil over the past decade. Similar trends are also at work in the vast coalfields of the Powder River Basin in Wyoming, the mountaintop mines of West Virginia and the rain forests of the Brazilian state of Rondonia.

A growing global population and a ravenous demand for natural resources is altering the very face of the planet. Thanks to the Timelapse imagery, we can see it happening. They first came to the attention of European settlers in the early 18th century, and native Canadians in the region had been using the sticky, bituminous sands for centuries — not to burn for energy but to caulk their canoes.

And that price matters. All that additional effort and energy means that it costs more to produce a barrel of oil sands crude than traditional oil. Even that early production took a toll on the land. Companies mined oil sands in open pits that left scars on the earth, and processing the resulting ore left a lot of tailings and wastewater, which were discharged into ponds.

Up close you can smell the tarry stench from the processing upgraders. Still, as the satellite images show, as long as the demand for oil is strong — it grew to 88 million barrels a day last year — the oil-sands development in Alberta will keep increasing.

The footprint may shrink somewhat thanks to a new mining process called in-situ extraction, which involves cooking and processing the sands underground, without open-pit mining. But that method requires more energy, which can mean more greenhouse gases. The proposed Keystone XL pipeline would carry nearly a million barrels of oil-sands crude a day across the border into the U. The pipeline has yet to be approved by President Obama, and environmentalists have identified Keystone as a red line, calling on the White House to cancel the project over climate concerns.

At the same time, conservatives are pushing Obama to approve it on the grounds that the U. The name says it all: The process is effective and cheap, requiring fewer workers than conventional mining. But if MTR has helped keep the faltering Appalachian coal-mining industry alive, it can also exact a terrible toll on the environment and human health.

Removed overburden needs to be put somewhere, and as a result, soil contaminated by toxic mining by-products ends up in valley fills, poisoning local streams. The mountaintop-removal process destroys deciduous forests, and while companies work to reclaim the land after mining is finished, some environmental disruption will always remain.

The communities that live near mining sites can be endangered by contaminated water or toxic dust in the air. A study found that counties in and near mountaintop mining areas had higher rates of many birth defects, as well as higher rates of cancer. The dramatic effects of mountaintop removal mining can be seen from space. But the real dangers might be invisible. While the popular image of coal miners is still sooty-faced West Virginians, the real center of coal mining in the U.

As the Timelapse images show, full-scale production in the PRB is relatively recent. Switching to low-sulfur PRB coal was a cheap way for plants to meet air-pollution standards, prompting increased coal mining in Wyoming and Montana.

But that may change in the future. Thanks to increasing concern over climate change and competition from cheaper and cleaner natural gas, coal use is on the wane in the U. Last year American coal exports hit a record million tons. The biggest potential market for coal exports is China, which consumed nearly 3. Or at least it would be, if there were any coal export terminals on the West Coast. Coal companies are trying to build several terminals in Oregon and Washington State, while environmentalists are trying to stop them.

The state of Rondonia in western Brazil is in the heart of the Amazon and was once home to nearly 50 million acres of pristine rain forest. Today Rondonia represents one of the most heavily deforested areas in the Amazon. The loss of forest has been rapid—nearly 25, sq. How do humans clear that much forest? Satellite images show that deforestation occurs in a fishbone pattern. Usually a road first extends deep into the forest.

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Search the world's information, including webpages, images, videos and more. Google has many special features to help you find exactly what you're looking for. TIME and Space | By Jeffrey Kluger. Editors note:On Nov. 29, , Google released a major update expanding the data from to Read about the update here. News from the Google Drive team. Circle us on Google+. Get the latest news and tips about Google Drive. Check out our blog. Read our blog for in-depth updates and announcements about Google Drive.