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Best services for viewing archived satellite images and maps

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Satellite images allow you not only to see the smallest details of the landscape, city infrastructure, but also to compare changes on the map. Thus you can travel back several decades and see the area as it was 10, 20, 50 years ago.

Historical maps allow you to analyze and explore the planet in retrospect. So, let's take a look at the best services that provide satellite and aerial images on a free or paid basis.

Table of Contents

Google Earth Pro

Google Earth provides users with highly detailed images of planet Earth. The Pro version of the program includes a tool called the historical time slider. Thanks to it, you can examine aerial photos and download historical maps from different eras. Most of the maps are available in HD format and allow you to examine the smallest details and changes in the landscape.

Using the Historical Time Slider in Google Earth is very easy:

  1. Install and launch the Google Earth Pro app (available in both Windows and Mac OS versions)
  1. Search for the map segment or location of interest

  2. Zoom the fragment on the map to the maximum scale

  3. Activate Views - Historical imagery option. Use the time slider - the available dates will appear next to it:

  1. Click on the desired date to view the satellite image for a specific year.

Oldaerialphotos

Historical photographs are available on the site at scales up to 1:25000. In the corresponding section you can familiarize yourself with resolution examples. Chronological examples are also available, through which you can see how an area has changed over the decades.

The website mainly provides UK aerial photography.

WARNING: Access to the maps is subject to a charge of £65.00 per map.

Using the site is very simple:

  1. Once on the home page, enter the desired town or street into the search box.
  2. Click on the camera icon to get an image footprint.
  3. You can switch between two map display options - aerial and map.
  4. Once you have selected an area on the map, you can go to the next step and select historical images available for a specific period.
  5. After payment the map can be used.

The maps are high resolution jpg files that can be viewed in any graphic viewer.

Worldview NASA

Worldview NASA is one of the largest sources for downloading historical maps of planet Earth. The site contains about 800 layers of satellite images from the last 100 years. All maps can be downloaded in JPG format in HD quality.

Generally, this service is mostly used as a real time satellite tracker, allowing you to view satellite images for the last 3 hours of observation.

Despite the fact that NASA Worldview does not specialize specifically in archive maps, this function is present. Slide the slider to the left or right to select a photo date.

For satellite maps, where options are available (taken in different periods), the year of capture can be selected. After that, various download options are available to the user.

Retrolens

This site is not very popular, but it provides access to a vast database of historical satellite images taken from 1936 to 2005. This archive contains about 600 thousand high-resolution images.

How to find a map for the required period? Very simple. To use the catalog of old maps,

  1. Go to the website
  2. Click on Retrolens or type the location you are interested in into the search.
  3. A list of available maps will appear in the right side column.
  4. Select a map.
  5. Use the zoom buttons to zoom in/out the map.
  6. Map downloads are available in Large and Medium formats.
  7. Time taken is indicated in the Date taken column.

Other features:

  • This service will be useful not only for ordinary users, but also for specialists in land surveying and mapping.
  • A lot of images are available for New Zealand.
  • Maps with Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 NZ license are available for free download.

Historic England

Aerial Photo Explorer project contains photos from the Historic England archive. On the site you will find about 500 thousand aerial photos. These photos can be used to compare the area on a map for different times. There is a lot of interesting and useful information available, so there is a good chance that amongst the aerial photos you will find images of your home town or village.

Many additional satellite images have recently been added to the site, including US Air Force collections. These images were taken by spy planes between 1943 and 1944.

Additional features:

  • Enable/disable layers on the map
  • Change the transparency of layers
  • Change the Basemap
  • Get more information about the photo: where and when the photo was taken.

Ilia is a professional writer. He has expert knowledge in GPS and cartography with 15 years of experience. Additionally, Ilia has extensive experience in data recovery on PC and mobile. He started his career as a journalist by reviewing PC and mobile apps. His current responsibilities are to keep track of users' questions on MGT and answer them.