Thanks to NASA’s Landsat 8 satellite, Google has been able to improve the image quality of the visuals from its Earth and Maps services by miles. All these pictures are stitched together over a long period of time, resulting in them not being obscured by cloud coverage.
NASA’s Landsat 8 satellite which was launched back in 2013 is an open project, which means anyone including you has access to the data it gathers. Google apparently mined through a petabyte (1000TB) of Landsat 8 imagery in order to select the best cloud-free pixels.
That accounts for more than 700 trillion individual pixels. To explain the magnanimity of the number, Google has pointed out that these are 7000 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.
Compared to Landsat 7, the Landsat 8 is able to click images with greater detail, truer colors and at a much larger frequency. The images used by Earth and Maps hence feature the most recent data available.
The high quality imagery makes viewing Earth images a treat. Everything from skyscrapers and building shadows to small playgrounds are clearly visible.
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In order to produce the final versions of this imagery, Google makes use of the publicly available Earth Engine APIs. These are already being used by scientists for a number of purposes like tracking global tree cover, predicting Malaria outbreaks and more.
The new highly detailed satellite shots will take some time to appear for areas all over the world, but they can certainly be spotted in important geographical areas right now. You can view them in Google Earth or through the Terrain layer in Google Maps.