Let us tell you now, when you watch these videos, make sure you switch to full screen mode. Good? Good.
Okay, now that’s out the way, what are these videos all about? Well, these are three stunning shots of Earth taken from space by UrtheCast's Iris camera, which is mounted on the International Space Station (ISS).
Iris, which was installed on the ISS in early 2014, constantly points towards Earth. It captures footage of the ground lasting up to 90 seconds in stunning 4K video, with the 1-meter (3.3-foot) resolution enabling features as small as cars to be made out.
In these videos, three locations on Earth are captured by the camera. The first is Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, with the Burj Khalifa – the tallest building in the world – and numerous other skyscrapers clearly visible in 3D as the camera moves. Next we see the Giza Pyramids in Egypt, with the four sides of the ancient structures revealed. And finally, we get a stunning view of Cape Town in South Africa, with the detail high enough to show waves crashing on the beach and cars driving along the roads.
The footage of Dubai allows you to see individual cars on the road. UrtheCast
Some of the structures, like the Burj Khalifa, might appear to move slightly oddly and “sway” in the footage. The building is not actually moving though, of course, but instead this is a result of the post-processing done by the company. Images taken by the camera shift over time, as the ISS is moving at about 27,000 kilometers (17,000 miles) per hour, so the perspective of each frame is radically different.
UrtheCast, a Vancouver-based technology company, is aiming to provide constant high-resolution video and imagery of Earth, to allow for unprecedented observations of the ground. This includes monitoring the environment, tracking humanitarian relief efforts, and even recording social events live.
Since the camera was installed, we’ve only seen a smattering of what it is capable of so far, as most of the footage is not publicly released and is instead sold for thousands of dollars. But hopefully, more videos like these are not too far away.
"Although we don't have formal plans yet for further free video releases, we’ve certainly considered releasing a few videos from our archive for free every now and then," Christos Koulas, Senior Production Manager at UrtheCast, told IFLScience. "The impact so far has been spectacular and we can’t wait to see what people can accomplish creatively with these videos."
Check them all out below.
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Giza Pyramids, Egypt
Cape Town, South Africa