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Since the fall of 1997, NASA satellites have acted as workhorses, continuously documenting all plant life on the surface of Earth’s land and oceans.

Everything from tracking phytoplankton populations in the oceans, studying changing vegetation in the Arctic reaches of North America, and monitoring crop yields has allowed researchers to analyze long-term trends and get a better understanding of how certain ecosystems cope under varying conditions.

This week, NASA is honoring the last 20 years of global observations from its satellites with the release of a five-minute video that offers an incredible glimpse of life on Earth from space.

“These are incredibly evocative visualizations of our living planet,” said Gene Carl Feldman, an oceanographer at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “That’s the Earth, that is it breathing every single day, changing with the seasons, responding to the Sun, to the changing winds, ocean currents and temperatures."

Satellites have been measuring land and ocean life from space since the 1970s, but continuous global observations weren’t captured until 1997, with the launch of the Sea-viewing Wide Field-of-view Sensor (SeaWiFS).

Decades-worth of recordings from SeaWiFS has led to the completion of the most complete view of biology on Earth to date, according to NASA.

The continuous space-based view of Earth enables researchers to analyze the health of crops, forests and fisheries all over the world, and record any anomalies or major changes. The data collected also helps predict how certain ecosystems will adapt to factors like a changing climate.

As NASA explained, life is the one thing that, so far, makes Earth unique among the thousands of other planets that have been discovered. The time-lapse video highlights all the intricate processes that make the planet livable.

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