Landsat coverage

The Landsat 8 satellite circles the earth in a near polar orbit. See this YouTube video to see an animation of the orbit of Landsat 7 which is identical to Landsat 8 but offset by 8 days. The resulting images are captured in specific spots on the surface of the earth laid out in rows and slightly diagonal columns, which the USGS has numbered and calls the Worldwide Reference System 2 (WRS-2). WRS-2 has been used for Landsats 4,5,6 and 7. Landsats 1,2 and 3 used WRS-1. You can download a KML file here showing the outlines in Google Earth.

Because the Landsat orbit is slightly tilted with respect to Earth’s axis of rotation, the poles are not covered. Strangely, there is also a gap at the antimeridian (the 180th meridian). We don’t know what the reason for the gap is, as the satellite clearly does fly over the anti-meridian. This becomes very noticeable if you turn on ‘historical imagery’ and look at the South Pole:


You can see in brighter white the area not covered by Landsat imagery as well as the odd gap at the antimeridian.

As we have mentioned before, Google Earth has an imperfect join at the antimeridian and if you follow it you will notice a number of glitches in the imagery and there is even a noticeable line in the ocean floor data.


Noticeable glitches in imagery at the antimeridian.

About Timothy Whitehead

Timothy has been using Google Earth since 2004 when it was still called Keyhole before it was renamed Google Earth in 2005 and has been a huge fan ever since. He is a programmer working for Red Wing Aerobatx and lives in Cape Town, South Africa.






PLEASE NOTE: Google Earth Blog is no longer writing regular posts. As a result, we are not accepting new comments or questions about Google Earth. If you have a question, use the official Google Earth and Maps Forums or the Google Earth Community Forums.

Comments

  1. Oh my god! B.o.B. was right!

  2. I look at the Landsat Global coverage often. I can confirm they do seem to like to collect over the anti-meridian but it isn’t as noticeable on a 2D projection as it is on the 3D globe unless you specifically look in Northern Russia. Something of note is that the grid system covers the world but Landsat doesn’t have much collection over most of the oceans at least according to the free data published in AWS.

  3. Typo, I meant “I can confirm they do NOT seem to like to collect over the anti-meridian”

  4. FYI, Looks like the video you link to for the Landsat 8 orbit animation is no longer available on Youtube.

    • Timothy Whitehead says:

      Thank you for letting us know. I have changed it to a different animation that does work.

  5. For those interested in Landsat 8’s Earth orbit and coverage, here is a cool video on NASA Goddard’s Youtube channel that illustrates both.



PLEASE NOTE: Google Earth Blog is no longer writing regular posts. As a result, we are not accepting new comments or questions about Google Earth. If you have a question, use the official Google Earth and Maps Forums or the Google Earth Community Forums.