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You can now travel through time with Google Earth and see how the planet has changed

A space view of western Europe in 1984 versus 2020 with drier landscapes in the latter
Western Europe in 1984 (left) versus 2020 (right)

Google Earth is a service that doesn't get talked about as often as some of Google's other offerings, but every now and then, the company still comes up with something new to add to it. Today, that something is Timelapse, a new feature that allows users to travel back in time to see how Earth has changed over the past 37 years.

The feature combines 24 million satellite photos covering the entire planet, so users can select any point on the globe and see its evolution over time. Timelapses of select locations around the world have also been made available in short video form, so you can download them for your own projects or watch them on YouTube.

In addition to that, Google has prepared some guided tours, telling stories about the reasons for how the landscape changed, such as how forests have slowly made way for towns and cities, or how ice has melted in regions like the Columbia Glacier in Alaska. There are five stories to choose from, focusing on forests, energy, global warming, urban expansion, and natural beauty. Google partnered with the CREATE Lab at Carnegie Melon University to understand the reasons behind the changes in the landscape and tell these stories.

Creating Timelapse in earth took some pretty heavy lifting on Google's part. The satellite imagery used amounted 20 petabytes, which took over two million hours of processing time across thousands of machines. The final result is a 4.4TB video mosaic that covers the entire planet. Google has also committed to keep updating Timelapse with imagery for the next 10 years.

Should you be interested in trying out Timeline in Google Earth, you can check it out here. If you'd like to see how things have changed on a street level, Google also lets you view pictures from the past in Street View, though those don't go as far back.

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