Google Unveils Clearest View of the Earth Yet

Dennis Faas's picture

Google has put together an aerial map of the world free of clouds. The project has involved pasting together different satellite shots to form a clear, unobstructed view of the earth.

The Google Earth map shows an aerial view rather than first-person shots. Although the map is not as detailed as Google's Street View cities, it does cover the entire globe.

Google notes that the famous "Blue Marble" image created by NASA covers around 500 meters with every pixel. The new Google image covers 15 meters with every pixel, representing a significant improvement.

Image The Size Of City Block

According to Google, if you were to print the entire image using a standard print resolution, the printout would be the size of a city block. The image has an 800,000-megapixel resolution, which is around 100,000 times more powerful than the cameras found on most smartphones. (Source:

The data behind the image came from Landsat 7, a satellite operated by NASA and the United States Geological Survey. The satellite was launched in 1999 and is still active today despite being designed to only operate for a period of five years.

Making the map involved two major operations. First, Google systems had to comb through numerous images of each particular area, looking for the most recent unobstructed view -- meaning there were no clouds in front of the satellite.

Google Map Works Like Patchwork Quilt

Second, the system had to deal with the results of a technical failure in the NASA satellite used to take the pics. This created a string of black stripes on the image.

This forced Google workers to carefully comb through multiple images where the stripes had been. The stripes have mostly been removed, but are still visible in a few places.

The pictures of each area had to be lined up to take account of any overlap, then stitched together like a patchwork quilt to create the giant image. (Source:

To see the new images you can either visit the Google Maps site and activate the "Satellite View" feature, or use the standalone Google Earth software. (Source:

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