- The GeoSphere Image marks a milestone in cartographic history. It is the
original satellite map of Earth, showing the world as it appears from space. The image was
first published as the title page of the 1990 National Geographic World Atlas. Since 1991,
it has been used by all U.S. federal agencies, the United Nations, thousands of businesses
and organizations, and has been published in hundreds of magazines and atlases worldwide.
Since its creation, it has been the best-selling image in the world.
Tom Van Sant Biography
- The 1997 GeoSphere Image is 43,200 pixels wide and 21,600 pixels high for a
total of 933.12 million true color pixels. Displaying the image at its full spatial
resolution would require 1555 standard broadcast television sets arranged in 120 stacks,
each 60 sets high. Each pixel in the image represents a region 1 kilometer wide at the
The cloud free image was created from multiple whole Earth mosaics of satellite scenes,
utilizing two visual bands and three thermal bands from the NOAA TIROS satellite. Each of
the satellite mosaics was itself a full 43,200 x 21,600 pixels resolution image. These
were combined with high resolution hydrology and elevation databases.
The input mosaics, from which the 1990 GeoSphere Image was created, required five months
of software development and non-interactive mosaicing time and five months of additional
software development and interactive compositing time on a Stardent GS1000 Graphics
The 1997 GeoSphere Image required two years of software development and compositing time
on Acorn, Macintosh, Silicon Graphics, and Sun Microsystems computers, with special
assistance from USGS/Eros Data Center and PLANETARY VISIONS.
THE CLOUD FREE SATELLITE VIEW OF EARTH
Date Origin: NOAA TIROS-N series satellites, AVHRR sensors
Image Resolution: 43,200 pixels wide by 21,600 pixels high
Geographic Resolution: 1 kilometer per equatorial pixel
Number of Pixels: 933.12 million
Image File Size: 1 Gigabyte
Planes of Colors: 24 bits, 8 bits each in red, green & blue (true color)
The GeoSphere Image 4.6 Kilometer composite completed April 15, 1990
Version 1 Produced by Tom Van Sant with technical assistance from
Lloyd Van Warren, Leo Blume and James Knighton and with
appreciation to Stardent Computer Corporation, Silicon
Graphics Corporation and Sun Microsystems.
The GeoSphere Image 1 Kilometer composite completed January 1. 1997
Version 2 Produced by Tom Van Sant with technical assistance from
Kevin Tildsley, Michael Wasowicz, Wes Biffar and
Pierre Maldague, and with appreciation to NASA, NOAA,
JPL, USGA/EDC, PLANETARY VISIONS, Acorn Computers,
Maggie Eastwood Foundation and Eyes on Earth.