Chelsea & The City: A project that changed my opinions about geography

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In school, geography was always one of my least favorite classes. Don’t get me wrong, I love maps, (especially transit maps – which sadly have nothing to do with the climate of Jamaica) but I just didn’t really care for learning about the precipitation rate of China. But today, my entire opinion about geography completely changed. This morning TIME, powered by Google, debuted a project of timelapses from 1984 – present that stitch together millions of satellite images of the Earth you can explore to see the evolution of its geography. The images are strikingly beautiful and rich with history and information that really only something this visual can teach us. If someone would have shown me this in school, I would have been a lot more excited about class.

Last July an exclusive collaboration started between Google, NASA, Carnegie Mellon and TIME. Since 1984, NASA’s Landsat program (a series of satellites orbiting the planet) have been capturing images of the ever-changing Earth between eight different satellites gathering millions of pictures. To quote from the project, the footage “weighs in at 1.8 trillion pixels per frame, the equivalent of 900,000 high-def TVs assembled into a single mosaic.” … incase you were wondering THAT’S A LOT.

Click to visit the "TIME and Space" time lapse project.

Click to visit the “TIME and Space” time lapse project.

These photos were handed over to Google and with their superhuman technologies brought them to life to reveal the changing geography of our planet over the past 30+ years. It is truly incredible to watch the evolution in such a beautiful way. Today marks the very first day this footage has ever been released. The entire team that worked on this site at TIME did an incredible job, not to mention the producer, who has been working on this since July and has been up for about 48 hours straight getting ready for this launch.

There are several different ways to explore the images. There are four main areas – Dubai, Columbia Glacier, The Amazon and Las Vegas – that highlight aspects from urbanization to climate change and more. But, the coolest part to me is you can also search for any area in the world and watch it grow. I was even able to see my tiny hometown in north Idaho (surprise, surprise – not much has changed there)!

So, if you have an extra five minutes today go explore this project and see what you find. The world is a beautiful place.

—Chelsea

(Chelsea Kardokus is a freelance designer for TIME magazine in New York City. See more of her work here.)