Earth Images Collection

You don’t have to be involved in astronomy to make use of a set of Earth views. They’re a nice addition to a Web site or multimedia project, and can also be used as the basis for some creative compositing. The Earth Images Collection is a single CD-ROM with over 1,200 such images. These are derived from British-based Planetary Vision’s natural colour Satellite Imagemap – more than 30GB of data from three satellite systems were combined with digital-map and -terrain data to produce this 1km-wide map. With the whole package being encapsulated in a standard-browser interface, it’s a doddle to find your way around. This also means not having to navigate your way through lots of folders on the CD – once a particular image is found, the browser’s “save to disk” function can be used. Cloud haze
Each of the 144 views has four styles. The standard cloud-free variety has been enhanced via a custom ray-tracing program to simulate the normal atmospheric haze, while the cloudy version shows our natural planet through data derived from geostationary weather-satellites. Ocean-depth images have a natural land surface combined with a colour-coded ocean-depth map, and there’s also a set of night-time images, courtesy of the US Air Force DMSP (Defense Meteorological Satellite Program) weather satellite. Aside from the main images, the package offers views showing each continent by day and night, plus nine stretched-out world maps. To allow for the disparate uses of multimedia and high-resolution image work, each map is presented in two widths: 600 pixels and 1,920 pixels, the latter allowing for full-width A4 printing at 240dpi.


If there’s a criticism, it would be in the high-level of JPEG compression – the artefacts can be seen quite clearly on some maps in the division between land and sea, leading to a slight lack of definition on printing. With 200MB to spare on the CD, a lower compression ratio should have been possible. That said, Earth Images Collection is a substantial set of world images, and will satisfy anyone in need of global views.

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