[CubeSats Online Summer 2020] Making Prompt 1: Satellite Imagery Stories

For this short activity, we’d like you to use satellite images to tell a geography-based story!

  1. Select one of the satellite imagery databases or tools from the list below.
  2. Use the tool to identify a region of interest (maybe your hometown, library location, or favorite vacation spot)
  3. Take screenshots of your region of interest at two different timepoints and see how it has changed over time!
  4. Reply to this thread with your images, and add some comments to tell your story!

You’ll also find some example stories from the PLIX team below. Feel free to get creative!

Open-Source Satellite Data
Select one of these datasets or tools to find images of your community!

These are just a few examples to get started with. If you find or know of other tools, feel free to use those!

This Making Prompt is part of the PLIX CubeSats Online :artificial_satellite: workshop series. You can find more information and links to sign-up in the linked thread below :arrow_down:

I looked through Global Forest Change Maps. This shows forest loss, extent, and gain on the coast of Massachusetts. The red shows forest degradation since 2000.



PS: When I was putting my screenshots in this post, the preview made them look cropped, but it looks normal now that it’s posted. :blush:

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Hi, all! I explored the capability of using Google Earth Pro for tracking urban development in Rye, New Hampshire. Here’s what I found : )

1992 April

2018 May

I was interested to see how much housing had been developed along the coastline, and noticed that several homes had been built in a high flood-risk/coastal erosion area. I am curious as to how satellite imagery will be used more and more to make decisions where to expand cities in the future!

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I looked at Urban development in Amman Jordan, where I lived from 2012-2013. It’s amazing to see the expansion of the city into the desert landscape after just 30 or so years!

It was also interesting to note the way the quality of the image resolution changed over time, marking what I’m guessing is increased capacity in the satellites.


With Google Engine Earth Timelapse, I looked at the UNESCO World Heritage city of Santiago de Queretaro in Queretaro, Mexico. The amount of development between 1984 and 2018 is staggering! What stood out to me was the green in the 2018 shot–what are those planned green spaces?


I took a look at Chicago using the USGS Earth Explorer!

This first image was taken from LandSat 7 in 2011 -->

Then, my second image was taken from LandSat 8 in 2020–>

Like @aaffinito, I also noticed the way that image resolution improved over time – presumably from technological advances! pretty cool stuff :sunglasses:


I used Google Engine Earth Timelapse to explore the construction of the new eastern span replacement of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. Although the construction started in 2002 and was completed in 2013, I only noticed changes in the images starting in 2004.

Here is the completed segment in 2013:

You can see that the old bridge section is still attached.

And 2017 with the old section removed:

So fascinating. I am now curious to learn more about the building process and the long-term impact the new span will have on the Bay Area.


I used Google Earth Engine Timelapse to examine urban development on Roosevelt Island (Manhattan) and Vernon Blvd. (Queens). Both communities run along the East River in New York City near ConEdison’s Training Facility. This was also the area where Amazon planned to build HQ2 NYC.




I used Google Earth Engine Timelapse to view the rising water level of Lake Michigan from 2008 to 2018. This year, Lake Michigan is near record high levels which has caused severe erosion along the shoreline in my town and neighboring communities in northwest Indiana. I also marked the location of my library.

2008 Lake Michigan Shoreline in Michigan City, IN

2018 Lake Michigan Shoreline in Michigan City, IN

Lake Michigan Shoreline Timelapse
Lake Michigan 2008 2018