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The Sharpest Ever Global Earth Map

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the globcover-plus-google-maps-equals-bliss dept.

Space 204

Roland Piquepaille writes "The GLOBCOVER project, started by the European Space Agency (ESA), has a very simple goal. It will create the most detailed portrait of the Earth's land surface with a resolution three times sharper than any previous satellite map. The image acquisition will be done throughout 2005 and use the Medium Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MERIS) instrument of the Envisat environmental satellite. To create this sharp map, the GLOBCOVER project will analyze about 20 terabytes of data gathered by the European satellite. When it's completed, the map will have numerous uses, 'including plotting worldwide land use trends, studying natural and managed ecosystems and modelling climate change extent and impacts.'"

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204 comments

'hello mum' (5, Funny)

thegoldenear (323630) | more than 8 years ago | (#12456693)

time to put something interesting on the roof for when the sat passes over

Re:'hello mum' (1)

TripMaster Monkey (862126) | more than 8 years ago | (#12456821)


Actually, this is a great idea. Have a contest in which participants vie for the honor of having the most interesting display seen from space.
We could have categories like:

- largest display
- lighted displays
- crop circles
- most original display
- (etc.)

Re:'hello mum' (3, Funny)

peculiarmethod (301094) | more than 8 years ago | (#12457086)

one could get a neighborhood to make roofs into pixels of a larger picture (goatse anyone?) by painting or tacking plastic over the larger part.

just a thought.

Re:'hello mum' (3, Funny)

Uruk (4907) | more than 8 years ago | (#12456827)

And it's also time to send out notice to the Californians: no more nude sunbathing.

Now that would be one hell of a computer science Ph.D. project: "Investigating the 'Where's Waldo' Imaging Algorithm for the Detection of Nude Figures in Satellite Photos"

Re:'hello mum' (4, Funny)

PopeAlien (164869) | more than 8 years ago | (#12456893)

And it's also time to send out notice to the Californians: no more nude sunbathing.

you accidentally put the word no in there..
its a minor typo, but it really should be "notice to Californians: more nude sunbathing".

Re:'hello mum' (1)

creimer (824291) | more than 8 years ago | (#12457304)

And it's also time to send out notice to the Californians: no more nude sunbathing.

Yeah, Californians need to stop doing that. If the rest of the nation can't figure out the difference between a male plug and a female socket, they have no one to blame but themselves.

Re:'hello mum' (2, Insightful)

zeromemory (742402) | more than 8 years ago | (#12456845)

Unless you have a roof the size of large chemical processing plant, your house won't appear to be more than a speck of dust.

The satellite imagery for this is being recorded at a resolution of 300 m. For comparison, the most zoomed in you can get on GoogleMaps is 2 m per a pixel.

Re:'hello mum' (5, Funny)

Reaperducer (871695) | more than 8 years ago | (#12457107)

The satellite imagery for this is being recorded at a resolution of 300 m. For comparison, the most zoomed in you can get on GoogleMaps is 2 m per a pixel.

But 300 is more than 2, so it must be better. That's why we're all salivating for 64-bit Minesweeper. Because it will be better than 32-bit Minesweeper.

Haven't you learned anything from TV commercials?
Digital is always better than analog, even when it isn't.
More is always better than less, even when it isn't.
More candy. More soda. More monkeys. More thermonuclear weapons.

Re:'hello mum' (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12457232)

Your post reminds me of a song:
hear the plans of our best minds this is what they warn
the only way to avert the worst is everyone use more
more things to make life complete consume more and more
i don't know how people in the past had anything to live for
everything is more
creature comforts from the black lagoon
more
automated assembly lines they do more and more
they put thousands out of work but hey what's progress for?
more loot for the privileged few
more people on the scam
more laws clogging up the courts throwing more people in the can
everything is more
you want a job? become a screw!
more
more people in the twighlight zone
more
more tits,
more ass,
more cops,
more traps,
more and more and more and more and more
more sports,
more news,
more information in and endless loop
i've heard the same thing so many times
i can'st stands no more!
more cops in the donut shops
more numbers
more foreclosures
more of your money in the big tanks' vaults

Re:'hello mum' (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12457251)

300M resolution?

Surface Area of the planet is 5.115x10^14 Square Meters

5.115X10^14 / (300x300) = 5.68333333 × 10^9 Super duper high res pixels

Lets say 24 bits per pixel and I get 17 Gigs(24Bit raw bitmaps) for the entire planet. 17Gigs compared to 20 Terabytes is more than a factor of 1000.

Re:'hello mum' (1)

Gentlewhisper (759800) | more than 8 years ago | (#12456874)

I'm looking forward to one of those satelites that can analyse the exact atomic structure of everything it passes by.

Way to go for the pr0n download... 3 billion subjects to choose from :D

Re:'hello mum' (4, Funny)

sootman (158191) | more than 8 years ago | (#12457170)

I'm gonna put a giant mirror on my roof so I can see what this satellite looks like.

Medium? (5, Funny)

brianmf (571620) | more than 8 years ago | (#12456699)

The image acquisition will be done throughout 2005 and use the Medium Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MERIS) instrument of the Envisat environmental satellite.

Surely the High Resolution Imaging Spectrometer would be more appropriate?

MERIS (5, Funny)

American AC in Paris (230456) | more than 8 years ago | (#12456700)

The image acquisition will be done throughout 2005 and use the Medium Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MERIS) instrument of the Envisat environmental satellite

Niles will be happy to hear she's orbiting the planet...

First thing we're all looking for ... (4, Funny)

SamSeaborn (724276) | more than 8 years ago | (#12456705)

I can see my house!

Re:First thing we're all looking for ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12456963)

Shit no... I'll searching for swimming pools and women laying out!

I won't mention nude beaches... because that is a given.

I think I'll arrange a bunch of rocks to spell out something vulgar too. Perhaps some L3375p3@k.

Re:First thing we're all looking for ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12457100)

I can see my parents' garage!

Re:First thing we're all looking for ... (1)

OmegaGeek (586893) | more than 8 years ago | (#12457242)

And I left the light on in the kitchen. Thanks to technology, I'll never have to wonder again!

first post! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12456706)

never did a first post in slashdot, I dont care if its modded as troll or whatever, *honoured*

Re:first post! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12456772)

Usually the so-called "first posts" are one or two posts late. Yours is 6 posts late.

Better luck next time :)

Sharp? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12456719)

Sharp? What good it that? The Earth is round and not very sharp at all. Wait, is this like a Mercator Projection or something?

Google it up! (2, Interesting)

Keck (7446) | more than 8 years ago | (#12456724)

Now when this is incorporated into maps.google.com I'll be even happier..

Re:Google it up! (1)

Janitha (817744) | more than 8 years ago | (#12456802)

Live sat imagery feeds is what I am really waiting for. (or at least more frequent scans)

Re:Google it up! (1)

omnisync (715232) | more than 8 years ago | (#12456883)

What?? You cannot do that from your work computer? Oh wait, I'm not supposed to tell about that...NO CARRIER

Re:Google it up! (4, Interesting)

Uruk (4907) | more than 8 years ago | (#12456849)

And what about Area 51, the Green Zone in Baghdad, and all of the nifty places on the earth that we don't typically get to see via satellite photos?

How do they filter those images out, anyway? These satellites have much better views than the typical U2 spy plane - is this a tacit agreement between defense and the satellite operating company, or does the defense department get a crack at the images before they're released to the public?

300m resolution (1)

green pizza (159161) | more than 8 years ago | (#12457106)

And what about Area 51, the Green Zone in Baghdad, and all of the nifty places on the earth that we don't typically get to see via satellite photos?

At 300 meter per pixel resolution, you're not going to see many details anyway.

Re:Google it up! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12457307)

Who cares about your lame ass country anyway?

Re:Google it up! (2, Insightful)

kebes (861706) | more than 8 years ago | (#12457285)

For those who don't know: the images that google makes available at maps.google.com are not the best they have access to. Google bought Keyhole [keyhole.com] and shortly thereafter launched google maps. However, anyone who did a keyhole free trial knows that the keyhole database had very high resolution images of the whole planet. What you see in google maps is about half the resolution that keyhole has. Not only that, but keyhole had imagery for the whole planet.

My point is that google is not limited in what it has available. Obviously they are releasing lower rez images for google maps (and charging for the keyhole service for professionals that need the higher rez), and it's also taking them some time to get google maps working for other parts of the world. But they already have access to a very extensive database (although possibly there are some licensing issues?).

HA (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12456725)

HAHAHAHAHAHA

Typo? (1)

broothal (186066) | more than 8 years ago | (#12456735)

acquiring images with a spatial resolution of 300 metres

Surely the resolution will be better than 300 m, or am I missing something?

Re:Typo? (3, Informative)

wowbagger (69688) | more than 8 years ago | (#12456976)

You are missing something.

The resolution of this bird is 300 meters, in many more wavelengths than just visible - multiple longband IR, optical, synthetic apeture millimeter radar.

It's like the difference between a 1920x1080 one bit per pixel image and a 640x480 Truecolor image.

I don't understand (4, Informative)

Spy Hunter (317220) | more than 8 years ago | (#12456741)

The image data for World Wind [nasa.gov] is based on a publicly-available global 30 meter resolution mosaic made from Landsat imagery. This satellite making this map is said to have 300 meter resolution. Wouldn't that make it much worse?

(BTW, I *highly* recommend checking out World Wind [nasa.gov] if you haven't seen it. It is one of the most awesome programs ever to exist, bar none.)

Re:I don't understand (1)

aliquis (678370) | more than 8 years ago | (#12456896)

If you would have read the article and looked at the comparision image you would see the resulting image is better. See for yourself here [esa.int]

Re:I don't understand (1)

aliquis (678370) | more than 8 years ago | (#12456940)

Can I change my mind? It was "clearer" but might not be more detailed, just from a place which have been more developed the last years. I should have looked closer, anyway, there is an example image ;)

Re:I don't understand (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12456964)

It's not a typo. Here [esa.int] is a description of the MERIS instrument. I suspect it will be the highest resolution image which is not just covering the visible bands.

Re:I don't understand (1)

Spy Hunter (317220) | more than 8 years ago | (#12457256)

Landsat images infrared bands as well, not just visible ones. In fact World Wind includes a false-color global mosaic which I suspect uses the Landsat infrared bands.

I think I have figured out what they mean, though. They claim the sharpest ever *map*, not image. I guess that means they are going to be creating a map of the globe with zones classified into different land cover types, something like this [esa.int], not necessarily a global image. However the line between a "map" and a "false color image" is being blurred here. That makes their press release rather misleading; far higher resolution global image data already exists and can be downloaded for free.

Re:I don't understand (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12457228)

You've got to rember that landsat dosen't cover much of the rest of the world. It's usa only for the most part. This is a whole world database.

You're right in that it's not as clear.

Re:I don't understand (2, Informative)

Spy Hunter (317220) | more than 8 years ago | (#12457330)

Nope, sorry. World Wind's Landsat data covers the entire globe at 30 meter resolution, not just the US.

The Earth's Flat (1)

zeromemory (742402) | more than 8 years ago | (#12456746)

It's true! Just look here [esa.int].

Let's hope a vessel doesn't go too far west of North America.

Re:The Earth's Flat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12456895)

Yeah because you would run into these folk at the great mirror Time Bandits [25frames.org]

And square! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12456994)

Four corners and all that. They'll probably outlaw globes in Kansas soon.

Yes, but... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12456748)

Will I be able to see the titties around the world's pools and beaches? If not, it all seems like a bit of a waste.

I want my planet! (5, Informative)

Renegade Lisp (315687) | more than 8 years ago | (#12456760)

That looks all very well, but if you dig a little deeper into that site, you'll come across the page where ESA describes its licensing terms [esa.int]. This data is only gonna be given to (a) scientists who are deemed serious by ESA, and who will report twice a year about their findings, and (b) to commercial users at "market rates".

Well but isn't this data for which I've paid with my tax euros already? Why does the public who financed it not get free access to that data?

While we're at it, can other Slashdotters perhaps point to links of freely available satellite imagery? Is there any kind of systematic coverage of the planet we live on which is freely available to everyone who does happen to live here?

Re:I want my planet! (1)

kidgenius (704962) | more than 8 years ago | (#12456815)

Someone else already linked up to World Wind [nasa.gov] from NASA. I had never heard of that, but I have played around with the Blue Marble stuff before (which you can get to from World Wind)

Get Nasa WorldWind (3, Informative)

quark007 (765762) | more than 8 years ago | (#12456928)

You could download Nasa Worldwind [nasa.gov] software for free.
There are some issues with Landsat7 data, but hopefully they will get fixed soon.
Its awsome piece of software! offers 7m resolution globally and offers 1m resolution for USA.
On the other hand, ESA has always been stingy in giving access to data. It took them a while to release Titan images; as opposed to Nasa who makes them available almost instanteneously.
I guess thats the difference between the cultures!

Re:Get Nasa WorldWind (2, Interesting)

Renegade Lisp (315687) | more than 8 years ago | (#12457111)

Thanks for that reply.

You could download Nasa Worldwind software for free.

Doesn't run on free operating systems though... Doesn't let you even look at the source code. But I still applaud NASA for such a great project. That's really the right spirit -- well almost :-).

On the other hand, ESA has always been stingy in giving access to data. It took them a while to release Titan images; as opposed to Nasa who makes them available almost instanteneously.
I guess thats the difference between the cultures!

Looks like it. But surely, that's a difference between space-organisation cultures, not so much society in general. Europe tends to be very free-software friendly these days -- rather more so than the US. Makes it even more sad that ESA doesn't really seem to get it.

Re:Get Nasa WorldWind (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12457250)

In my experience, ESA's problem isn't that they're stingy with data, they're just incompetant when it comes to timely data distribution. They have problems getting data even to the people who DO pay for it. The Envisat mission has been plagued by this since day one.

Re:Get Nasa WorldWind (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12457269)

I guess thats the difference between the cultures!

What cultures? The Titan-images were owned and released by an Arizona science team.

How Much for a Copy? (1)

kidgenius (704962) | more than 8 years ago | (#12456770)

Now, the real question will be how much ESA will want for a copy of this map, or portions of it.

Nothing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12456876)

But the shipping and handling on 30000 CDs will be a bitch.

Area 51 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12456775)

Cool! Now I can really find out what goes on at Area 51!

Sharpest Map? (2, Funny)

NightWulf (672561) | more than 8 years ago | (#12456791)

"The image acquisition will be done throughout 2005 and use the Medium Resolution Imaging Spectrometer" So if they want to create the sharpest map, wouldn't it be best to use the High Resolution Imaging Spectrometer? Duh....

Globetrotting@Home, anyone? (1)

P0ldy (848358) | more than 8 years ago | (#12456804)

"To create this sharp map, the GLOBCOVER project will analyze about 20 terabytes of data gathered by the European satellite." How long is that going to take?

Is this nitpicking? (2, Insightful)

Vila, Bob (879734) | more than 8 years ago | (#12456817)

The estimate is that up to 20 terabytes of imagery will be needed to mosaic together the final worldwide GLOBCOVER map - an amount of data equivalent to the contents of 20 million books.

Why do writers insist on making these kind of useless comparisons? Is there any research that indicates the average book contains the equivalent of one megabyte of data? Especially one megabyte of imagery? Will this really help a layperson quantify a terabyte?

This just in: The human brain is capable of storing an amount of data equivalent to 68 quintillion index cards.

Re:Is this nitpicking? (1)

Otter (3800) | more than 8 years ago | (#12457057)

I think you're overnerding this a bit. The analogy is between storage capacity for the images and the number of characters in a book, and it's intended to give a sense of order of magnitude. It's not intended to be a comparison of file formats.

That said, I don't quite get how they get 20. A typical novel has roughly 50,000 words, for, say, 250,000 characters. It's not clear to me how analogizing characters to either bits or bytes gets you to a megabyte book.

Re:Is this nitpicking? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12457119)

Think of it as 256 times the discovery IBM just gave SCO.

Schedule? (0, Redundant)

rjelks (635588) | more than 8 years ago | (#12456818)

It would be nice if they posted a schedule. I'd like to make a sign for my roof.

oh well...

So... (3, Funny)

dfn5 (524972) | more than 8 years ago | (#12456822)

acquiring images with a spatial resolution of 300 metres

So the most important question is how big does my sign have to be?

vegetation (0, Redundant)

ericdano (113424) | more than 8 years ago | (#12456834)

It's really scary to see the LACK of vegetation on the planet.

Re:vegetation (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12456856)

That area without the trees...it's called the ocean.

Re:vegetation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12456914)

Perhaps you didn't watch the media coverage of the Democratic National Convention last year.

Re:vegetation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12457025)

Someone like you can operare a computing device?

One would think the keyboard alone would be an insurmountable task for you.

I learn something new and amazing every day...

Re:vegetation (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12456937)

If there were any more vegetation, it would cause all vegetation to be less healthy due to lack of food...

See, there's this thing called equilibrium... if there is suddenly a glut of food, the population of living things that feed on that food thrives until the amount of food comes back down, then some of the population starves to death, reducing the demand on food thereby allowing the food to rebound... ad infinitum...

The fact is, there is more vegetation on the planet now than there was 100 years ago because we're pumping the atmosphere full of food and it's growing like mad trying to eat it all..

Re:vegetation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12457010)

What do you mean "pumping the atmosphere full of food"? I thought plants "ate" sunlight. /real question /please explain

Re:vegetation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12457297)

You mean you don't each oxygen?

Re:vegetation (4, Insightful)

TripMaster Monkey (862126) | more than 8 years ago | (#12457044)


The fact is, there is more vegetation on the planet now than there was 100 years ago

I call bullshit.

State your references or admit you're pulling 'facts' out of your ass.

House-spotting (0, Redundant)

autophile (640621) | more than 8 years ago | (#12456842)

When it's completed, the map will have numerous uses, 'including plotting worldwide land use trends, studying natural and managed ecosystems and modelling climate change extent and impacts, and allowing more people than ever possible to say "I can see my house from here."

--Rob

240 bits per pixel = lots'o'data (2, Insightful)

G4from128k (686170) | more than 8 years ago | (#12456858)

MERIS grabs data in up to 15 spectral bands with 16 bits per band per pixel. Its only has a 1/2 megapixel imager (842 x 691), but the RAW images are 17.5 MB.

Multispectral data is great for identifying ground cover (e.g, classifying the types of plants, health of plants, minerals, etc. on the ground). Sometimes, it's more valuable to know the materials on the ground than to see the geometric detail.

Re:240 bits per pixel = lots'o'data (1)

hurfy (735314) | more than 8 years ago | (#12457046)

So they can make Flight Sim 2004 have swampy swamps?

cool

hehe my 1st thought of higher res pictures was a 20GB update for fs2004.

Current multispectral stuff is more than 300m? Interesting, it would miss entire steams, even rivers and stuff.

Multispectral images and "unmixing" low-res pixels (2, Informative)

G4from128k (686170) | more than 8 years ago | (#12457149)

Current multispectral stuff is more than 300m? Interesting, it would miss entire steams, even rivers and stuff.

Good point and that seems plausible, but is not entirely true. With a good pixel-mixing analysis you can resolve stuff inside the pixel. The key is having a clean spectral model for the terrain versus water and being able to say that a given pixel looks like its 90% trees and 10% fresh water. "Unmix" enough pixels and you can string them together to find streams smaller than 300 m wide that cross an expanse of forest or grass-land. A string of 10% water pixels in a 300 m resolution image is probably a 30 meter-wide stream. Moreover, the plants around water often different substantially from the plants in the drier surrounding areas -- making it even easily to infer the existence of creeks that are far smaller than the resolution limit.

publicy available? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12456882)

It'd be great if I could download freely the maps. I know, it's a huge effort, but so are my efforts when I work and pay my taxes.....

Messages to my Faves. (1)

triso (67491) | more than 8 years ago | (#12456913)

Great! I plan on burning a few messasges for my favorite politicians into the field behind my house. When do they pass over Waddington, NY?

Awright, you geeks... (1)

McBainLives (683602) | more than 8 years ago | (#12456990)

No- and I mean *NO* nude sunbathing for any of y'all until 2006. We just can't afford to take the chance.

Re:Awright, you geeks... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12457182)

This means YOU, cowboy Neal.

and now for the obligatory... (1)

TurboBling (685466) | more than 8 years ago | (#12457063)

I, for one, welcome our new gloabal mapping overlords.

Re:and now for the obligatory... (1)

tofucubes (869110) | more than 8 years ago | (#12457156)

these "new gloabal mapping overlords" are being funded and run by the old european overlords (governments) and yes they got the money out of europeans' pockets

"Sharp" maps, huh, Roland? (1)

MoralHazard (447833) | more than 8 years ago | (#12457073)

It's a sharp map, you said? Sharper than the sharpiest sharp map ever made sharply of a sharp?

How about "higher resolution?" Or are you actually talking about a map that I can cut myself with?

Because honestly, Roland... your prose make me want to cut myself. And I stopped that in high school.

300m 15-bands... great for analysis, not pictures (5, Informative)

PenguinOpus (556138) | more than 8 years ago | (#12457103)

Reading the article, it really is 300m/pixel. This is 400x lower resolution than the 15m Landsat data that is available as a basemap in Keyhole, Google Maps, and other providers.

The reason this data is interesting is its 15-band nature and the amount of analysis and extraction that can be done from it.

For pretty pictures, there are plenty of better sources.

Google maps fanboys, have no fear... (2, Insightful)

jeffmeden (135043) | more than 8 years ago | (#12457125)

There is a huge difference between the 'google maps' visual coverage, and this, which is a 'earth surface condition map'. For one, the resolution here is pathetic compared to that of the 'google maps', but it has a completely different goal. It is intended to show details about land, instead of whether or not someone mowed a 'hi mom' message into their lawn. Move along, you won't be seeing that any time soon.

fp (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12457151)

Will google use this technology in google maps?

Global Composite Map from Space? (0, Flamebait)

amightywind (691887) | more than 8 years ago | (#12457178)

What an original idea! You mean like this [wisc.edu]? What is with Europe? Mars Express, A380 and now this? Tone it down guys.

Didn't NASA already do this ... better? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12457241)

The SRTM mission [nasa.gov] is 90m resolution over (almost) the entire world. What's the point of this other than to show that Europe can do it too? If the difference is they can do it lots of times and show changes, what objects larger than 200m2 translate themselves more than 200m between satellite passes, and without us noticing?

Land surface only... (1)

Bnderan (801928) | more than 8 years ago | (#12457334)

What about mapping the sea surface? This just adds more fuel to the argument that Europeans are biased in favor of land.
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