In August, commercial satellite operator DigitalGlobe launched its Worldview-3 (WV3) satellite, which is capable of capturing photos sharp enough to let viewers identify objects on the ground that are as small as a foot across. Government regulations prevent those superdetailed satellite shots from being released for a few more months, but DigitalGlobe has shared some of the best shots from WV3 and other satellites that it can legally show us from 2014. You can vote for your favorite from the collection over on Facebook. (Also check out these epic images from 2013.)
Kicking it off is the above view from space, which isn't from the latest "Star Wars" trailer or a close-up of a pair of lizard eyeballs. It's Canada's Diavik diamond mine, photographed in August. The mine takes up a big chunk of an island in Lac de Gras in the Northwest Territories. The site includes large dikes designed to keep lake water out of the mine and a gravel landing strip that could accommodate a commercial jet.
Itaipu Dam, on the border of Paraguay and Brazil, claims the title of world's largest power plant, but its construction in the 1970s and 1980s also destroyed what was once the world's largest waterfall by volume.
A view from above of Everett, Wash., home to Boeing. Worldview-3 is the first commercial satellite capable of 30-centimeter
imagery, which means each square pixel in an image captures one square
foot of space on the ground. While it might not seem like it, that's a
big leap from the 50-centimeter standard that was in place in 2013.
The scene shows the northern Syrian town of Kobane, where fighting was taking place in October between Kurdish forces and ISIS militants. Note the border with Turkey that runs across the middle of the frame.
This high-resolution shot of colors in an Alberta forest in October could be a normal seasonal change or evidence of a larger pattern. This image comes from DigitalGlobe's WorldView 3 satellite, which DigitalGlobe claims offers the highest resolution of any commercial satellite, making it possible to take a much closer look at crops or forests from above. When full-resolution photos from the satellite become available, it should be possible to pick out individual trees in shots like this.