Earth Imagery

ARC Science Simulations has long been recognized as the leading provider for accurate, high quality earth imagery. The 1 km/pixel Face of the Earth™ master image, cloud cover and night lights are all derived from satellite data using ARC software, methodology, and aesthetics. Modeling results using ARC’s imagery can compare remarkably well to photographs from space.

Pass the cursor over the familiar Apollo 17 Earth photograph at left — the clouds will have seemingly been removed. The cloudless Earth is of course the Face of the Earth modeled as it would appear from the same viewpoint.


Planet Modeling

Modeling the Earth for a realistic “astronaut’s view” requires skill on the part of the designer, as well as a good modeling data set. However, skill cannot fully compensate for imagery that is weak or poor in its representation of color and detail (you cannot make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear). In the hands of the designer, ARC’s modeling layers can produce derivatives that are difficult to distinquish from actual images from space.

For natural Earth-from-space modeling, the cloudless global image is used along with additional layers including cloud cover, lights at night, and a mask to distinguish land from water for illumination effects. ARC offers such modeling bundles” at resolutions of 16km, 8km, 4km, and 2km per pixel, in addition to the full 1.1km imagery.

Bay Zoom
Click on the thumbnail image at left to open a window in which you can zoom into the San Francisco Bay. Note the pop up resolution tags. Click in the smaller frame to zoom in, click outside the frame to zoom out. Images are from the global Face of the Earth™ down to 1.1 km/pixel, with the higher resolutions from other sources, all color matched to Face of the Earth™.

Free Modeling Bundle!

Click on each image below to see the layers at 40km/pixel resolution (1000 × 500 pixels). These basic modeling layers can then be saved to your computer.

Cloudless Earth

Global Clouds

Night Lights

Water Mask

Use this 40k set with your modeling or photo-editing software to create your own beautiful Earth views and graphics. If you publish your derivatives in any form including on the web, we only ask that you credit ARC Science and Face of the Earth™ as the source.

When the time comes that you need larger imagery, higher resolution— it is available with this same great quality. Our licensing terms and fees are very reasonable— check them out.

Modeling other Planets, Other Times

ARC’s primary focus is the present day Earth, but other imagery is available. Our colorization of Mars is particularly good, and we even have a Martian cloud cover. We can also provide a colorized Moon (Luna) and the best global Jupiter of which we have seen. As a convenience, we may also be able to provide modeling textures for other planets and moons of the solar system for your projects.

Colorized Moon to 7200×3600 pixels

Mars to 21,600×10,800 pixels

Jupiter 1800×900 pixels

Paleo-Earth to 3000×1500 pixels

Dinosaur Times and More

For other Earth epochs, ARC has excellent paleo-artwork for other tectonic periods at 30-40 million year intervals back to 600 million years ago (Sample above at KT boundry— 65 million years ago). This original artwork was created by geologist/artist Ron Blakey, U.N. Arizona, with plate positions based primarily upon the work of C. R. Scotese, PaleoMap Project.



When a global data set for applications such as space flight simulators and geo-spatial reference imagery is needed, ARC’s 1 km/pixel Face of the EarthTM image is generally preferred. This is because the high quality of detail and color compares so well to visible land and water features. This quality also makes incorporating higher resolution insets more satisfactory, which is frequently done in these applications (link to HR below). Organizations using the data set include NASA/JSC, Russian Centre of Cosmonaut Training, DOD, SPAWAR, UNAVCO, Raytheon, and Lockheed Martin. Analytical Graphics, Inc. (AGI) offers the data set with their Satellite Tool Kit (STK/VO).

Note: Face of the Earth™ was originally derived from the NOAA TIROS satellite AVHRR data and colorized by a proprietary methodology patented by ARC. It has continued to be enhanced with MODIS and Landsat derivatives. The resolution of the distributed global data set is 1.1km/pixel, providing a convenient scale of 100 pixels per degree (the latitude-longitude gridded image is 36,000 ×18,000 pixels). The data set can be provided in any required geo-referenced format. (Draped landscape)

Flexible licencing terms available. Call ARC at 800-759-1642 or 970-667-1168 for a quote for your project.


HR Satellite Imagery

ARC provides geo-referenced regional imagery at 500m (MODIS) and 150m (Landsat mosaics) and Landsat 4/5 and Landsat 7 at 30m per pixel, all colorized to Face of the Earth standards. For even higher resolutions, we use both aerial photography as well as 1m or better satellite imagery, depending upon availability, cost, and quality considerations. For cosmic zooms and fly-ins, ARC provides custom multiple-resolution color matched image sets.

Click on the above image to open a window showing the region at 2 km/pixel resolution.

Then scroll east to Afghanistan and click on the frames to zoom down to Kubal at 30 m resolution.

Note: Initial image is relatively large and may take a few minutes to load.


Content Creation

ARC provides data sets/imagery for other content creators, and also creates custom content for clients. In fact, the quality of our modeling imagery is often driven by our own modeling projects. If we don’t have what we feel we should, we invest the effort to create it. In addition to computer animations such as fly-ins, we have done many large murals, gores for large globes, and ambitious animations such as the Paleo-Animation. Some of these projects are described further in the Gallery. A partial client project portfolio is listed in About ARC.

Call ARC at 800-759-1642 or 970-667-1168 to discuss content creation or your high resolution satellite imagery requirements for murals or digital applications.



Q: ARC’s imagery is from the same satellite imagery sources as everyone else who distributes satellite derived data. So what is different or better about ARC’s?

A: Our emphasis from the beginning (1995) has been to use satellite data to create essentially photographic/visible eye realism. This is not easy because of 1) the typically low quality of satellite data (clouds, haze, and instrument artifacts), 2) the limited spectral sampling of the satellite imaging instrument, and 3) the aesthetic and technical judgement required. In fact, until ARC published the original Face of the Earth, arguably no one had seriously attempted this, or thought it was worthwhile, or thought it was even possible with the data available at that time. It is a nitch market, but it’s an additional segment that wasn’t being served before. And even with the better data available today (MODIS and Landsat, among others), we still do it better than anyone else, and do it over a wider resolution range.

Q: Why is the imagery so expensive? If it satellites and data are tax payer paid and the data in the public domain, why isn’t it cheap if not free?

A: That’s what we wondered back in 1994 when we wanted a good global image. There are several reasons. The lower resolution 1 km raw data is essentially free to anyone. However, the work required to process the data into modeling quality imagery is great. We invested approximately four man-years of effort in the original release of Face of the Earth. And all the additional layers such as global clouds take similar effort. Furthermore, for the higher resolution data such as Landsat, we have to purchase it in addition to spending significant effort in image processing. Basically, we charge what we must to make any business sense out of it (like making payroll). There is a lot of competition in value-added satellite data distribution— it’s just a business with different companies trying to find what works best for them— generally an ongoing challenge.