Satellite Shoots Beautiful 6,000-Mile-Long Panoramic Photo from Orbit

Landsat Earth Panorama

There’s a slew of super-large panorama pictures available on the web, but when was the last time you heard about a picture that spans well over half the diameter of Earth?

That’s exactly what NASA’s Landsat Data Continuity Mission captured last month from a whopping 438 miles above the surface of our great blue marble. Measuring in at an impressive 6,000 miles in length and 120 miles wide, the panorama stretches from Northern South Africa to East Russia. NASA calls this work of art ‘The Long Swath’, and it comes in at 19.06 gigapixels.

Fifty-six still images make this strip of gorgeous Earth scenery possible, and given that Landsat is orbiting the planet at about 17,000 miles per hour, it took only — wait for it — twenty minutes to capture. That’s impressive. What’s more interesting, however, are the variations on Earth’s surface. Flourishing forests to barren deserts, lakes, and everything in between – and the colors are amazing.

So what makes this different than firing up Google Earth and viewing the whole world? With Google Earth, you’re looking at a bunch of different pictures shot at different times. The beauty here is that this one super-long picture was captured in one fell swoop.

It’s certainly worth a look, even if you don’t have time to explore the picture in its entirety.

You can view the full interactive version on Gigapan, watch the tour video, view the entire panorama in 15 minutes, or load it up on Google Earth.

(via NASA Earth Observatory via PopPhoto)

  • Alois XXXVII

    Fact check: 6,000 miles is not well over 1/2 the diameter of Earth. It isn’t even 1/3 the diameter.

  • Alois XXXVII

    Never mind. Diameter. I get it.

  • chubbs

    Photoshop must have pooped itself on photo merge with this one…

  • vivanteco

    The diameter of a globe runs through it’s centre, not it’s surface, so hold your fact check.

  • hugh crawford

    It’s really a little less than 2 gigapixels set diagonally on a 19.06 gigapixel black background, but still pretty wonderful.

  • Anthony Burokas

    Yea, Google may include all kinds of images form different dates and angles, but the USGS has the source files and those are taken by high altitude planes in one long pass. Sure, technically, this could be easier in terms of daily-updated, global aerial photography, but it’s not THAT amazing. We’ve been stitching together dozens of extremely detailed images from near space since the 1950’s.

  • David Brannan

    How does one overcome the Coriolis effect to make this a straight line?

  • Evan Varsamis


  • lakawak

    Viewing it on Google Earth is extremely anti-climactic.

  • barryhunter

    At a guess, the Camera is continuously tilted so its looking at a streight line on earth (even though the satalite is not following the same path)

  • Dustin Niehoff

    Well, if you notice, the entire picture only took 20 minutes. The earth doesn’t rotate very much in 20 minutes, therefore the effect of the earth’s rotation would be minimal and the photograph would be approximately straight. If I did my math correctly, only about 350 miles would have changed east-west due to rotation, which counts for much of the tilt (maybe all, I don’t know, I didn’t look that closely). Is Landsat in a perfectly polar orbit?

  • Sarmad Berlin

    I like the fact that some excellent world music was chosen to accompany this!

  • francisco

    Insta gram is going to love this!