Back in 2013, we got access to a cloud-free mosaic of our earth through, well, Google Earth. Engineers were able to find a way to stitch together satellite images without being obscured with clouds so that we can have a better view of what we can find on the ground below from that perspective. Now, we’re getting even better and crisper images as Google is switching to the Landsat 8 satellite from NASA and the US Geological Survey (USGS).
Landsat 8 is actually the newest sensor from the USGS/NASA Landsat program and was just launched around 3 years ago and was able to vastly improve the way we looked at these satellite images. They had more details, the colors were more vivid, and had a higher frequency than the previous Landsat 7, capturing twice as much images. And these images captured after 2003 were affected by a hardware failure and so many diagonal gaps of missing data disappeared.
And so now, with Landsat 8, Google is also using the same Earth Engine APIs that scientists are currently using. They were able to extract data from a petabyte or 700 trillion individual pixels to choose the best cloud-free pixels. That’s a lot of pixels, if you can wrap your head around it. It’s 70 times more pixels than the estimated number of galaxies. This leads to sharper and of course more updated and current images.
The best thing about a program like Landsat 8 is that the data is open and accessible and so Google is able to capture this information and update Google Earth and Google Maps immediately. Check those two apps out and see if you’ll notice the difference with the update maps.