With its mapping and imaging tools, Google has offered a highly useful window into many corners of the globe, and now it is bringing our humble little home into even sharper focus. The company has just introduced an updated version of Google Earth that taps sharp new imagery from Landsat 8 satellite to give the planet's surface an impressive makeover.
Google Maps and Earth have made taking a gander around the planet easier than ever before, but stitching these images into such a user-friendly interface is anything but simple. Images of the Earth's surface taken by satellites, such as Landsat 7 that Google counted on for its mapping tools up until recently, are often obstructed by clouds and atmospheric effects.
Google last updated Maps and Earth in 2013, a move that sought to address these factors, which were compounded by a hardware failure that caused diagonal gaps of missing data over certain locations. The company mined hundreds of terabytes of data from Landsat 7 to stitch together a higher-resolution, mosaicked image virtually free from clouds and other obstructions.
Now the company has sifted through millions of new images, 700 trillion individual pixels and almost a petabyte of data to find the clearest pixels and up the resolution even further. These were gleaned from Landsat 8, the satellite launched in 2013 capable of snapping images in greater detail, truer colors and at almost double the rate of Landsat 7.
These new images bring structures and features on the Earth's surface into considerably sharper focus, as demonstrated by the before and after photos of New York City below.
Google compiled its new images of the globe through its publicly available Earth Engine APIs, which are tools intended for scientists wanting to track trends like retreating glaciers, deforestation and disease outbreaks. Its new images are accessible now through Google Earth or by flicking on the satellite option on Google Maps.