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Google Maps Gets a 700 Trillion Pixel Upgrade

Jun 28, 2016 07:39 AM EDT

Satellite map imagery on Google Maps and Google Earth has just received a major upgrade of 700 trillion pixels of data. The enhanced satellite data became available to the users of those services on June 27th, 2016.

Three years ago, Google Earth made the news with the release of a cloud-free atlas online. The new images promise to be even more free of cloud cover, as well as offering more distinct and visible views of the planet's geography.

Breaking the news on the Google Earth blog, the Google Earth Engine Program Manager Chris Herwig emphasized that the improved version incorporates "fresh imagery from Landsat 8 satellite and new processing techniques for sharper images than ever before."

Launched in 2013, Landsat 8 is equipped with the latest planetary observation sensors, giving it more powerful image capturing facilities than previous satellites. The pictures taken by Landat 8 exhibit finer detail and truer colors, and the satellite also generates images more frequently. In fact, it captures twice the number of pictures a day than Landsat 7 ever achieved.

Anyone can now go to Google Maps or Google Earth to examine the enhanced satellite imagery. Reporting in The Atlantic, Robinson Meyer highlighted how the new version offers a clearer view of remote Christmas Island. Although it is located in a part of the Indian Ocean where it commonly gets clouded over, the island can now be seen cloud-free on Google Earth. More detail is observable. Meyer pointed out a tan spot on the map-an immigration detention center run by the Australian government-which was tough to distinguish from the clouds until now.

Herwig said that such clarity was only achieved after his team looked through millions of Landsat 8 captures to find the ones with the clearest pictures. Then they stitched the best images into a seamless mosaic. One can only imagine how much more detailed the next version of the satellite map will be, a number of years from today.

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