A New Panorama of New York, Created at Night

In a series of early-morning flyovers, scientists are using a laser technology known as LIDAR (light detection and ranging) to create the most detailed 3D picture of New York City to date:

While most residents were sleeping, a twin-engine Shrike Commander flew serial missions over the city recently, cruising low like Superman and back and forth like a lawn mower. Equipped with a laser system, the plane collected highly precise images of the city, its rooftops, trees, wetlands and much of what lies in between.

The resulting maps and images will rival, at least digitally, The Panorama, a 9,335 square foot model of the city built by Robert Moses for the 1964 World’s Fair. It contains 895,000 buildings and is the crown jewel of the Queens Museum of Art.

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