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Satellites see what sprawls in Vegas

In honor of Landsat 5's birthday, NASA shows how Las Vegas has grown since 1972.

What sprawls in Vegas doesn't stay in Vegas. Time-lapse images from the Landsat series of Earth-monitoring satellites reveal in false-color, multispectral imagery how urban sprawl has stretched out from Nevada's "Sin City" over the past four decades. This latest video was posted by NASA in honor of the 28th anniversary of Landsat 5's launch on March 1, but the pictures actually go back to 1972, when the Landsat program began. Such images help planners keep track of the pace of development, which may affect future water use, zoning regulations and other policies. Want to see how your own area has changed between 1975 and 2000? Check out this "ChangeMatters" viewer from ESRI.

More cool views from Landsat:

Alan Boyle is msnbc.com's science editor. Connect with the Cosmic Log community by "liking" the log's Facebook page, following @b0yle on Twitter and adding the Cosmic Log page to your Google+ presence. You can also check out "The Case for Pluto," my book about the controversial dwarf planet and the search for new worlds.