3.1-Trillion Pixel Landsat 8 Mosaic of the World

Elizabeth Borneman


The imaging technologies on satellites orbiting the Earth can take pictures of broad expanses and minute details, utilizing methods that allow researchers to conduct a variety of analyses on the data. The pictures sent back can be used to create more accurate maps, show rainfall or vegetation levels, as well as a variety of other metrics.

Descartes Labs has compiled some of the massive amount of data sent back from the satellites orbiting Earth into a 3.1-trillion pixel composite image of Earth’s surface. Descartes Labs used images from Landsat 8 and the European Space Agency’s Sentinel satellites to create three global mosaics of satellite imagery served via Maps, which is available to the public. Users can access the map and choose what they want to see and the level of detail they want the map’s information to go to.

There are currently three composite maps available, built from data acquired from Landsat 8Sentinel-2A, and Sentinel-1 satellites. All the maps show the Earth on cloudless days, meaning no part of the map is obstructed by weather. Descartes Labs created these images with the help of supercomputers that were able to sift through an extraordinary amount of information faster than a regular computer could.

The three types of global mosaics available. Image: NASA.
The three types of global mosaics available. Image: NASA.

The applications for this kind of composite mapping are nearly endless. Using the data gathered by satellites, researchers can track changes in the Earth’s surface over a period of days, months, and years. The research areas are many; interested users could look at the spread of urban areas, the amount of rainfall in important agricultural zones, and the instances of natural disasters around the globe.

Free weekly newsletter

Fill out your e-mail address to receive our newsletter!

Technical details about the mosaics: Descartes Labs Releases 3.1 Trillion Pixel Landsat 8 Mosaic, Landsat Science and Using Petabytes of Pixels with Python to Create 3 New Images of the Earth, Descartes Labs.

Visit: Descartes Labs Maps


Photo of author
About the author
Elizabeth Borneman
My name is Elizabeth Borneman and I am a freelance writer, reader, and coffee drinker. I live on a small island in Alaska, which gives me plenty of time to fish, hike, kayak, and be inspired by nature. I enjoy writing about the natural world and find lots of ways to flex my creative muscles on the beach, in the forest, or down at the local coffee shop.