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Space Science

The Sharpest Ever Global Earth Map 204

Posted by Zonk
from the globcover-plus-google-maps-equals-bliss dept.
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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The Sharpest Ever Global Earth Map

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  • 'hello mum' (Score:5, Funny)

    by thegoldenear (323630) on Friday May 06, 2005 @04:51PM (#12456693) Homepage
    time to put something interesting on the roof for when the sat passes over

    • 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.)

    • by Uruk (4907) on Friday May 06, 2005 @04:59PM (#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' (Score:2, Insightful)

      by zeromemory (742402)
      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.
      • by Reaperducer (871695) on Friday May 06, 2005 @05:21PM (#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' (Score:3, Interesting)

        by sootman (158191)
        "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."

        If that's the case, why does the article say it has "a resolution three times sharper than any previous satellite map"? Were the images that Google uses from aerial photography--that is, pics taken from airplanes, not satellites? I'm confused here.
        • Re:'hello mum' (Score:3, Insightful)

          by d-Orb (551682)

          The difference between stuff like google maps, and that sort of data (from the Quickbird or Ikonos satellites, with resolutions better than a meter) and MERIS (the instrument used for GLOBCOVER) or MODIS (the NASA equivalent. There before MODIS, slightly lower resolution, but you can get the data for the FTP site without the hassles you have to go through to get MERIS data. But I rant...) have poorer spatial resolution (MERIS full resolution is 300m, and MODIS is 500m), but better spectral and temporal samp

    • 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
    • by sootman (158191) on Friday May 06, 2005 @05:26PM (#12457170) Homepage Journal
      I'm gonna put a giant mirror on my roof so I can see what this satellite looks like.
    • at the 300 meter resolution cited in the story I wouldn't worry too much - they won't be reading any license plates...and unless you live in a REALLY big house, that won't show up in more than one pixel :-)
  • Medium? (Score:5, Funny)

    by brianmf (571620) on Friday May 06, 2005 @04:51PM (#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 (Score:5, Funny)

    by American AC in Paris (230456) * on Friday May 06, 2005 @04:52PM (#12456700) Homepage
    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...

  • by SamSeaborn (724276) on Friday May 06, 2005 @04:52PM (#12456705)
    I can see my house!
  • Oh (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    shit... better throw a tarp over my missles...
  • Google it up! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Keck (7446) on Friday May 06, 2005 @04:53PM (#12456724) Homepage
    Now when this is incorporated into maps.google.com I'll be even happier..
    • Live sat imagery feeds is what I am really waiting for. (or at least more frequent scans)
    • Re:Google it up! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Uruk (4907) on Friday May 06, 2005 @05:01PM (#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?

    • Re:Google it up! (Score:3, Insightful)

      by kebes (861706)
      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 a
  • acquiring images with a spatial resolution of 300 metres

    Surely the resolution will be better than 300 m, or am I missing something?
  • I don't understand (Score:5, Informative)

    by Spy Hunter (317220) * on Friday May 06, 2005 @04:54PM (#12456741) Journal
    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.)

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

    Let's hope a vessel doesn't go too far west of North America.
  • Yes, but... (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    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.
    • Only if they are over 300 meters large. With Google, they only have to be more than 2.5 meters. If you find a woman whose breasts show up on satellite photos, I'd sure like to meet her...
      • Why?

        Up to a certain point, large breasts are entertaining. But at that scale, they're not good for much unless you plan to cover them in snow and ski down them.

        "Dude, you should've seen it. Stan got wicked air off Nipple Peak, but fractured his collarbone landing on the Z-cup slope."
  • okay.. (Score:1, Insightful)

    by derxob (835539)
    I better cover up my illegal plants..
  • I want my planet! (Score:5, Informative)

    by Renegade Lisp (315687) * on Friday May 06, 2005 @04:55PM (#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?

    • 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 (Score:3, Informative)

      by quark007 (765762)
      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!
      • 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

    • Re:I want my planet! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by d-Orb (551682) on Friday May 06, 2005 @07:00PM (#12458198) Homepage

      You see, I work with data from both ESA and NASA for Earth Observation. And many of the people of the communities which would be served by these data are annoyed by the attitude. The way NASA works is to produce a number of products for scientific and research based work, and chuck'em into some web site. You go and download. ESA, on the other hand, requires you to write a proposal, which is peer reviewed and blah blah blah. Eventually, they send you a bunch of CDs with the data you didn't want, 2 years later than expected and to an address in Italy when you wanted them in the UK (personal experience). They claim the peer review stage and proposal submission help to show decision makers (politicos) in member states the useful and brilliant things people do with the technology they invested their cash on. The result is an infrautilisation of the ESA data, or it's very limited use in research environments.

      On the other hand, NASA gives the data away, people download it, piss about with it for a few days, and from time to time, you get businesses using it, people realising they can get a paper out of it... Essentially, it gets used.

      To be fair with ESA, they are making efforts to streamline the processes, but management seems to work that way. Due to its transnational nature, ESA is a bit like the EU: no country wants to pay in, but everybody wants subsidies, contracts... ESA is just the same, which is sad. A far stronger scientific presence at the top would greatly improve things...

      • by birge (866103)
        European governments keep themselves busy by making everything as difficult as humanly possible. It's either that, or cause a world war every few years. I applaud this decision.
    • Exactly. They should release all data for free, since it's paid for by the people. They should do it not only because it's the right thing to do, but also because they would get more respect and their popularity would go up. ESA is terrible as PR and informing the public. I bet more Europeans know more about NASA's projects than those of ESA.
  • Now, the real question will be how much ESA will want for a copy of this map, or portions of it.
  • by NightWulf (672561) on Friday May 06, 2005 @04:57PM (#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....
  • "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?
  • by Vila, Bob (879734)
    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
    • 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.

  • Schedule? (Score:1, Redundant)

    by rjelks (635588)
    It would be nice if they posted a schedule. I'd like to make a sign for my roof.

    oh well...
  • So... (Score:4, Funny)

    by dfn5 (524972) on Friday May 06, 2005 @04:59PM (#12456822) Journal
    acquiring images with a spatial resolution of 300 metres

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

  • vegetation (Score:1, Redundant)

    by ericdano (113424)
    It's really scary to see the LACK of vegetation on the planet.
  • House-spotting (Score:1, Redundant)

    by autophile (640621)
    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

  • by G4from128k (686170) on Friday May 06, 2005 @05:02PM (#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.
    • Wrong calculation (Score:3, Informative)

      by photonic (584757)
      You got your calculation wrong because you don't get the operating principle of the MERIS instrument. It is not a half megapixel ordinary camera that with some magic collects 15*16 bit per pixel (e.g. by taking 15 images in close succession with a changing filter wheel).

      As the page on MERIS [esa.int] says, it is a 'pushbroom imaging spectrometer'. 'Pushbroom' means that instead of a rectangular field of view like a normal camera, it has a line-shaped field of view. An image is formed by continuously observing the s
  • publicy available? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    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.....
  • Google Maps Europe at last?
  • 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.
  • by PenguinOpus (556138) on Friday May 06, 2005 @05:21PM (#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.
  • by jeffmeden (135043) on Friday May 06, 2005 @05:23PM (#12457125) Homepage Journal
    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.
  • How is 300 Meters sharper than the 15m NaturalVue [earthsat.com] data set from earthsat?
  • Other than yet another Roland ad, what is the point of this story being on /.? We're geeks -- we want to see the pictures! What, no maps to show yet? Write us when you have the pics to show.

    Seriously, are we going to help create the maps? No. Are we going to be able to provide assistance in any way? No. Is there anything to see yet? No. So why not post a story once the maps are out?

  • Heh, why not also analyze traffic patterns and see exactly which roads get crowded and when, and by doing this over a period of several years, find patterns related to various things, like which day of the week it is, what time it is, what holidays are going on in various parts of the social, political, and religious world, and other such things. Then, combine all this information into a computer program that allows drivers to pick the best possible route for their drive, and continue adding realtime inform
  • Most satellite maps have high detail pictures of american and european cities, and very low resolution of remote villages in afghanistan and the gobi desert. I wonder if this image will really map all of the world's surface.
  • The image acquisition will be done throughout 2005 and use the Medium Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MERIS)

    Maybe it's just me, but if I wanted to make the "Sharpest Ever Global Earth Map," I'd use a High Resolution Imaging Spectrometer. Or maybe this is about job security, ensuring they can do it all over again next year. Ah, mediocraty.

    Somebody needs to tell the ESA that doing a half-assed job is the American way, damnit.

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