An HD camera mounted to the International Space Station (ISS) released its first videos of Earth from space. And they’re pretty impressive.
This is the first time Urthecast, the satellite company behind the videos, has released footage taken from their color HD video camera, called Iris.
The videos show Barcelona, Boston and London in incredible high definition—you can even see cars driving on highways clearly. The camera is so powerful that it can even pick out crowds of people, though it isn’t quite powerful enough to spot individuals walking (yet).
Iris can capture full-color video sequences up to 60 seconds in duration, with a resolution of 1 m per pixel. But getting these videos into a useful form isn’t easy. The ISS is constantly moving in its orbit about 220 miles above the planet’s surface, and the camera moves as astronauts move around the orbiting outpost, which means even small movements can throw off the pointing of the camera.
To eliminate this movement, engineers created algorithms to help cancel out the movement of the space station once the raw videos were sent to Earth. After the movement of the space station was removed, viewers were left with high-def videos that looked like they were shot by a stationary, steady camera.
The idea is to share the astronaut’s view and stream it out for the rest of us. Urthecast’s goal is to provide high-quality images of Earth taken from space to governments, businesses and the general public around the world.
And these videos aren’t just for entertainment. Urthecast believes the videos could help scientists track large-scale issues, like deforestation for example. Developers would also be able to create tools using their images to help monitor Earth from orbit.
Urthecast plans to launch two more cameras to the Space Station by 2017. Hopefully those cameras will be able to cut through clouds to see parts of the planet that aren’t usually visible from space.