Planet’s new Explorer Beta lets anyone time travel through geospatial images

Planet, the global imaging company that recently acquired Google’s Terra Bella satellite imaging business, is introducing a new tool called Planet Explorer Beta that allows its users to view how its image captures of Earth from space change over time. It’s available to the public without a login, which means petty much anyone can check out what a particular spot on the planet looked like over a monthly or quarterly period.

Planet co-founder and CEO Will Marshall explains in a blog post that the company has noticed that, as it captures images of the same spots over time, almost all places undergo some visible change. Planet’s satellite network captures a lot more imagery than has typically been available, and on a more frequent basis — it can collect a new snapshot of every piece of land on Earth daily, via its network of 149 orbital satellites — and it says things change at least mostly almost invariably across the planet.

There’s obviously a business aim with Planet’s decision to launch Explore Beta publicly with no login required — use of the resulting images is limited to non-commercial purposes, and Planet hopes this will drive free account sign-ups, which unlock access to not only monthly and quarterly change imagery, but also daily comparisons. And these hooks are likely to convert at least some users into paid subscribers, which allows them to use the available data for commercial use.

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But Planet also says it believes imagery of the Earth should be freely accessible to all, including NGOs, small companies and individuals, rather than exclusive province of big corporations and government agencies. For us everyday users, this is a great new way to pass some time looking at truly amazing satellite images, and getting some new perspective on the all-too inevitable passage of time.