Blue Marble Time Animation in Google Earth

Blue Marble time animation in Google EarthLast year NASA released Blue Marble Next Generation which are cloudless color-enhanced images of the entire Earth. Even better, they released one complete view of the Earth for every month of the year. You can watch how the Earth changes over time during the course of the year. The images are available in a variety of resolutions, and I have done experiments with them in Google Earth. Today I’m releasing a time animation of NASA’s Blue Marble (5.4 Mbytes) over 12 months where the images are overlayed on Google Earth. You must be using Google Earth 4 version 4.0.2091 or greater to see the time animation. Read on for details on how to use it.
I color-enhanced the photos, reduced the size, time stamped them for each corresponding month, and overlayed them in Google Earth. Once it loads, you will see the time gadget in the upper part of the screen. Select the rightmost “Play” button (the triangular button) to see it animate. Note that it will have to load each of the months the first time through, after that it should animate more quickly. Also, I recommend you speed up the animation by selecting the little “clock” gadget on the left of the time gadget. Move the slider called “Animation Speed” to at least half way for a faster animation. You can also spin the Earth, while its animating, to see other parts of the world over time.
The images came from NASA’s Blue Marble Next Generation web page here. There are very high resolution versions of the images available.
[NOTE: If you like this time animation, check out the Blue Marble Add-on for Google Earth]

About Frank Taylor

Frank Taylor started the Google Earth Blog in July, 2005 shortly after Google Earth was released. He worked in 3D graphics for many years and was very impressed with this exciting product. Frank left in 2009 to circumnavigate the earth by sailboat as part of the Tahina Expedition.


  1. Very cool. Is this with the high res images, and if not, would you consider making one with them? Thanks! Mark

  2. There are VERY high resolution versions of Blue Marble. However, I consider these medium resolution for downloadable versions as a movie. Since there are 12 images, if I double the size in pixel width we’re talking 30 Mbytes for the time animation! There’s a diminishing return when trying to view on a global scale with resolution verses donwload size.

  3. The animation is great (as is Blog)but for me it stays fixed between April and November. I’ve tried tweaking animation settings to no avail. Have you seen/heard of this problem? Thanks Dan

  4. NASA World Wind has had the high-resolution versions of these since they were released in 2005.

  5. John Chesterton says:

    This is great however i have the same problem as Dan above where half the year does not animate… any suggestions Frank?

  6. Very cool!
    I implemented a similar time series, in 2D with worldKit.
    The smooth-ish transitions are accomplished by varying the layer alpha continuously by day .. suppose that’s something that could be done in Google Earth as well.

  7. I’m not sure why half the year would not animate. Possibly a problem with graphics memory (since these are large image overlays that could be the problem). What version of GE are you using?
    By the way, we have a much better implementation in the works. Unfortunately, we may have to wait for a new release of GE 4 before it will work properly.

  8. I’m using GE Pro 4.0.2416 (beta) on my laptop with memory Cache of 672MB and Disk Cach 1800MB – I will try on a newer PC over weekend. Will look forward to the new release.

  9. Frank, It would be be great to make the high resolution images available as an option for those with fast computers and graphics cards. The time animation is fantastic, but the pixels are a little large when zoomed in. It’s great, and would be even greater with the high res images. Thanks! Mark

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