Feeds

NASA, Japan (nearly) finish topographic map of Earth

Everything but the boring polar bits

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

NASA and the Japanese government have released what they claim is the most complete topographic map of the planet yet. The data uses detailed measurements from NASA's Terra spacecraft covering 99% of the Earth's landmass, with only the boring polar bits left out.

The new elevation model of Earth was created from nearly 1.3 million individual stereo-pair images snapped by the Japanese Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emissions and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) aboard Terra. Each elevation measurement point is 30 meters (98 feet) apart, NASA said. The data was then given simulated natural color and draped over terrain models to strike a pretty picture:

Colorized to show elevation, image credit: NASA

Himalayan glaciers in Bhutan, image credit: NASA

Terra's newfangled map is expected to be valuable for Earth sciences, engineering, energy exploration, public works design, firefighting, recreation, city planning, and just plain folks who like pretending they can smite mortals from above. The data is being offered online at no cost.

"This is the most complete, consistent global digital elevation data yet made available to the world," said Woody Turner, Aster program scientists at NASA HQ in Washington DC. "This unique global data set will serve users and researchers from a wide array of disciplines that need elevation and terrain information."

NASA said its new data breaks the agency's own record for publishing the most complete topographic set publicly available. Previously, it was from NASA's Shuttle Radar Topography Mission, which mapped 80 per cent of Earth's landmass, between 60 degrees north latitude and 57 degrees south. The new Aster data covers from 83 degrees north latitude and 83 degrees south. (The poles are apparently of little consequence unless you're a narwhal).

"The Aster data fill in many of the voids in the shuttle mission's data, such as in very steep terrains and in some deserts," said Michael Kobrick, Shuttle Radar Topography Mission scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "NASA is working to combine the Aster data with that of the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission and other sources to produce an even better global topographic map."

What the Los Angeles Basin may look like underneath the smog, image credit: NASA

ASTER acquires its images from 15 different bands of the electromagnetic spectrum, from visible to thermal infrared light. NASA and Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry developed the data set. A joint science team from the US and Japan validate and calibrate the instruments and data.

Some choice images are available here, complete with a video clip flyover of California and Los Angeles. The data itself is at yonder URL - although as of publication it appears to be experiencing a crippling amount of traffic. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
6 Obvious Reasons Why Facebook Will Ban This Article (Thank God)
Clampdown on clickbait ... and El Reg is OK with this
No, thank you. I will not code for the Caliphate
Some assignments, even the Bongster decline must
Kaspersky backpedals on 'done nothing wrong, nothing to fear' blather
Founder (and internet passport fan) now says privacy is precious
TROLL SLAYER Google grabs $1.3 MEEELLION in patent counter-suit
Chocolate Factory hits back at firm for suing customers
Mozilla's 'Tiles' ads debut in new Firefox nightlies
You can try turning them off and on again
Facebook, Google and Instagram 'worse than drugs' says Miley Cyrus
Italian boffins agree with popette's theory that haters are the real wrecking balls
Sit tight, fanbois. Apple's '$400' wearable release slips into early 2015
Sources: time to put in plenty of clock-watching for' iWatch
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Advanced data protection for your virtualized environments
Find a natural fit for optimizing protection for the often resource-constrained data protection process found in virtual environments.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.