Google announced yesterday that it has begun rolling out new high-definition satellite imagery of Earth to its Google Earth and Google Maps apps.
The company said it was introducing a new cloud-free mosaic of the Earth's surface made up of high-resolution images taken by Landsat 8, a satellite deployed by the USGS and NASA in 2013.
Google Earth image of New York City before update
New Google Earth image of the same area after update
In a blog post announcing the update, Google explained that the seamless mosaic uses new processing techniques for sharper pictures, and was composed out of a mind-blowing amount of open access digital data:
To produce this new imagery, we used the same publicly available Earth Engine APIs that scientists use to do things like track global tree cover, loss, and gain; predict Malaria outbreaks; and map global surface water over a 30 year period.
Like our previous mosaic, we mined data from nearly a petabyte of Landsat imagery—that’s more than 700 trillion individual pixels—to choose the best cloud-free pixels. To put that in perspective, 700 trillion pixels is 7,000 times more pixels than the estimated number of stars in the Milky Way Galaxy, or 70 times more pixels than the estimated number of galaxies in the Universe.
Some users are reportedly still seeing old images in the app, and Google hasn't offered a specific timeline for completion of the update, which began on Monday. Users can check the blog post for more images and information on the satellite's history.