By Andrea Romano
October 17, 2017

Now you can explore all of Africa in high definition.

The European Space Agency (ESA) has released the first high-resolution map that shows land-cover types — including grasslands, crops, water, and deserts — on the entire continent of Africa. To create the map, the agency used a whole year’s worth of data from the Sentinel-2A satellite.


If you're wondering how much data that is, it's a lot: 180,000 images (90 terabytes worth) were taken from December 2015 to December 2016 and used for the completed, full-resolution map which is 6 terabytes in size. You can view it through your web browser on a custom web interface developed for the map.

The purpose of the map is to help track and analyze land use in Africa. The data can help those at the ESA (and elsewhere) better understand the impact of climate change, and the current state of biodiversity and natural resource reserves.

Frédéric Achard at the European Commission's Joint Research Centre, said the map is an “impressive demonstration” of both the satellite and current data processing capabilities.

“The community dealing with land resources in Africa will surely look forward with great interest to this prototype and to its future development,” he said, according to the ESA.

For the rest of us, the map is an amazing representation of a continent we could spend a lifetime exploring.