Watch Michigan change over time using Google's 'Earth Engine'

Jun 10, 2013

My kids love using Google Earth. With the push of a button they "fly" from Ann Arbor, Michigan to Newfoundland, the Panama Canal, the Great Barrier Reef, or some other place they're curious about.

Now Google has mined satellite images from the U.S. government that allow us to fly back in time.

The USGS Landsat program takes a big camera/satellite like this:

The Landsat 8 satellite is prepared for launch.
The Landsat 8 satellite is prepared for launch.
Credit NASA

Shoots it up into space like this:

Landsat 8 launch February 11th, 2013.
Landsat 8 launch February 11th, 2013.
Credit NASA

And orbits the Earth taking pictures like this:

Landsat 8 orbiting Earth.
Landsat 8 orbiting Earth.
Credit NASA

The USGS' Landsat program has been around for more than 40 years.

Google, with the help of the CREATE Lab at Carnegie Mellon University, has taken the millions of images collected by the Landsat program and made them accessible to you and me.

Time magazine describes their feat this way:

With the help of massive amounts of computer muscle, they have scrubbed away cloud cover, filled in missing pixels, digitally stitched puzzle-piece pictures together, until the growing, thriving, sometimes dying planet is revealed in all its dynamic churn. The images are striking not just because of their vast sweep of geography and time but also because of their staggering detail.

By zooming in, we can watch:

And for a view of what's happened from 1984 to 2012 around the globe, check out Time magazine's Timelapse page.

The USGS' Landsat program will continue to take pictures, documenting how our land and water are changing. Through this program, this powerful history will be accessible to billions of people around the world.

Fly back in time around Michigan and let us know what you find below!