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Nova recently aired Earth From Space on PBS. (I highly recommend it.) Also found here on youtube.

Produced in extensive consultation with NASA scientists, NOVA takes data from earth-observing satellites and transforms it into dazzling visual sequences, each one exposing the intricate and surprising web of forces that sustains life on earth.

Does anyone know what tools and processes they used to "transform" and display satellite imagery on a global scale?

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up vote 13 down vote accepted

Unfortunately I can't view that video from Canada but based on the screen shot I believe something like that could be rendered in Pov-Ray. A while back I asked a question about how to generate a high resolution rendering of the globe and @scw suggested I try Pov-Ray.

Using this guide I was able to create custom globes with a combination of my own inputs and, real time cloud imagery and global imagery from NASA. It is relatively easy to tweak atmospheric effects, glow and lightning effects, add imagery and a lot more. Technically, you could render the globe at slightly different position to generate high resolution frames for a globe rotation animation.

Here are some of my attempts:

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Parameters of the globe were defined in Pov-Ray (Including position of light, intensity, shadow, etc.) The only 2 external inputs are real time cloud map by xplanetclouds and global imagery by NASA: enter image description here enter image description here

Here is another globe using ETOPO1 global image from the National Geophysical Data Center with a custom Ontario overlay. I think I also added countries outlines to this one:

enter image description here

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+1 Whether or not that's how NOVA did it, you present some fine examples. –  whuber Jul 2 '13 at 20:49
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