See the world through a satellite’s lens, and explore our changing planet at the Royal Observatory Greenwich
Each day, over 1,000 satellites constantly image and analyse Earth.
The data collected, encompassing observations of everything from volcanic eruptions to traffic jams, is shaping our modern world.
From space, Earth’s fragile beauty is most obvious. Its changing climate is unmistakable, as habitats retreat and oceans warm. But the data gathered is also helping to turn things around.
Earth from Space takes a closer look at our world through the satellite’s lens, opening up a perspective that only a handful of humans have experienced themselves.
Through astrophotography, video and interactive elements, the exhibition at the Royal Observatory Greenwich explores satellites’ vital role in tackling climate change, and reveals a truly unique, living planet: our home in space.
Earth From Space is free for all Planetarium show ticketholders and Royal Observatory visitors.
Tap the arrows to see just a handful of the remarkable images featured in Earth From Space.
Taken by the crew of Apollo 17 on 7 December 1972, this full-disc image of Earth became famous as the original ‘Blue Marble’ - one of the first images of the entire planet from space. In it we see the South Pole, Africa and a cyclone over India. During Apollo both remote and handheld photography was used, with astronaut images providing a uniquely human perspective of the Earth and Moon. The image remains one of the most culturally significant in history, with countless reproductions by other space missions, for its stark demonstration of Earth as a living island in an otherwise dark cosmos.
Apollo 17/Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech
The ocean’s smallest plants, phytoplankton, can bloom in their billions when cool ocean currents deliver sufficient nutrients, as they have done here in the Gulf of Finland. Phytoplankton alone convert about as much carbon from our atmosphere into living mater as all land plants combined, making them a potentially vital tool in combatting climate change. However, blooms can also be harmful to other wildlife and humans. Imaging blooms from space greatly aids the study of these important plants as our ocean warms.
NASA Earth Observatory images by Joshua Stevens and Lauren Dauphin, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey and MODIS data from LANCE/EOSDIS Rapid Response
In the summer of 2022, temperatures in the UK exceeded 40°C, turning large areas of the country yellow. It is predicted that Europe will likely see longer, more frequent, and more intense heatwaves due to climate change, and the extent of heat stress on flora is striking from space. In 2023, temperatures in parts of Europe approached 48°C, intensifying wildfires and making them more dangerous and more difficult to control. Satellite data can help protect ecosystems in both the UK and the rest of the world during intense heat.
Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, NASA Johnson Space Center/Expedition 67 Crew
In false colour, the blue ice shelves of the Antarctic can be seen breaking up. In 2017 ESA Sentinel satellites witnessed a major disintegration of the Larsen Ice Shelf in the Weddell Sea. While the melting of ice shelves does not raise sea levels, their break-up dramatically quickens glacial melt on land, which does contribute to higher sea levels. Ice shelves are also unique marine ecosystems and their loss is now closely monitored.
ESA/Sentinel-3/Copernicus/CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO
Human activity does not have to be on a grand scale to be visible. In Greenland in March 2023, Landsat 9 observed straight tracks carved on the frozen Tunulliarfik fjord, indicating that the 150 or so residents of nearby towns are likely using vehicles to traverse the ice for hunting, fishing or as a quicker route to the airstrip seen at the top of the image. Even life in the most remote locations on Earth is visible to satellites.
NASA Earth Observatory images by Lauren Dauphin, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey
In early 2021 global shipping all but ground to a stop when the huge container ship Ever Given blocked the Suez Canal. After a week, a traffic jam of 367 vessels had developed, stretching over 100 km into the Red Sea. Countless satellites monitored events and coordinated the rescue attempt from space, providing useful data during efforts to refloat the stranded ship.
NASA Earth Observatory images by Lauren Dauphin and Joshua Stevens, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey and VIIRS day-night band data from the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership
Taken by the Voyager 1 probe on Valentine’s Day 1990, this is the most distant image of Earth ever made. Earth is but a fraction of a single pixel, but visible nonetheless. Astronomer and scientist Carl Sagan encouraged NASA to allow this image to be taken just minutes before Voyager’s cameras shut down forever. His accompanying lecture, ‘Pale Blue Dot’, remains one of the most evocative pieces written on Earth’s fragility and our responsibility to protect it.
If you'd like to visit the historic Royal Observatory, you'll need a timed entry ticket. We recommend booking online in advance to avoid disappointment, although walk-up visits are still available.
Planetarium show tickets are not included in entry to the Royal Observatory and must be booked separately. For a full schedule and how to book, click here.
Once here, you can visit Earth From Space whenever you like; there is no separate ticket required for the exhibition.
Earth From Space is located in the Astronomy Centre, in a dedicated gallery space right next to the Peter Harrison Planetarium. If you are coming to the Planetarium, you can choose to visit the exhibition either before or after your show.
If you are visiting the historic part of the Royal Observatory and would also like to see Earth From Space, just ask any staff for directions when you arrive. The Astronomy Centre is in the south part of the site, just past the distinctive roof of the Planetarium.
Located in the Astronomy Centre at the Royal Observatory, the Astronomy Café & Terrace is open at weekends and school holidays to Planetarium ticket holders. You can also pick up refreshments from stalls just outside the main entrance to the Observatory, or head towards the Parkside Café just down the hill at the National Maritime Museum.
Find out more
We Are Guardians is a new Planetarium show exploring satellites' role in monitoring climate change. Join Earth's fleet of state-of-the-art satellites for an immersive exploration of our planet today, suitable for adults and families.
The Royal Observatory Greenwich is actively involved with the UK Space Agency to teach and promote the use of satellite imagery to tackle climate change.
22 science centres and museums across the UK are participating in the Our World From Space programme. Find out more about the other partners and their projects here.
Open daily from 21 October 2023
Explore the sea, space, history and creativity at Royal Museums Greenwich
Find all events coming up at the Royal Observatory.
Main image courtesy of the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, NASA Johnson Space Center
Earth From Space is free for all Planetarium show ticketholders and Royal Observatory visitors. If you'd like to visit the historic Royal Observatory, you'll need a timed entry ticket. Planetarium shows are not included in general admissions to the Royal Observatory and must be booked separately.