A research project out of Nova Scotia is offering the public a fresh look at Earth from outer space.
Caitlin Cunningham, a graduate student at Dalhousie University in Halifax, has created an interactive website with more than 250 images of Earth from the International Space Station.
Cunningham began the project in January 2018 when Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield donated 13,199 images of Earth he took from space to the school. Dalhousie is one of only two institutions in Canada with access to the archive.
From there, Cunningham was challenged to sift through the images and create a unique way for the public to view the gallery.
“At first it was: ‘This is the coolest data set ever, (I’m) really excited to work with this,’ but then it sunk in as: 'Oh my goodness, I have to go through this,’” she told CTV Atlantic.
"It took a lot of work but I'm really happy with how it turned out."
Hadfield took some 45,000 images during his time in space from Dec. 19, 2012 to May 13, 2013, most of which were sent directly to NASA. In 2014, Hadfield released a book entitled “You are here: Around the world in 92 minutes,” a photo essay featuring 192 of his best images.
Part of Cunningham’s project is meant to show the public how the world has changed over time. The site has a feature which allows users to compare Hadfield’s images to those taken by NASA in the 1970s.
“People will be able to look at the Earth over time and look at how things have changed and how we've impacted the planet,” said James Boxall, Cunningham’s advisor for the project. “I think Caitlin would have said: ‘We've impacted every single spot of the planet.’"
The research team could not identify the location of dozens of images, so the website also features a section for public feedback to help them discover what part of the planet they’re looking at.
“I'm a geographer and to take three weeks to figure out a place on the planet is a little bit embarrassing in some ways, but it's also a whole lot of fun," said Boxall.
While the website won’t be live until April 11, Hadfield has already taken a look at the site and approves of the final product.
"He thanked us for all the work that we've done -- particularly Caitlin -- on this collection and just how meaningful it's going to be for people who are curious about space and geography,” said Marlo MacKay, a spokesperson for Dalhousie University.