Google Earth Blog
The imagery from Google’s November 8th update is now available in historical imagery. A significant proportion of the imagery was not put into the default imagery, so was not accessible until now.
The location we will look at today is Pāhoa, Hawaii. The default imagery contains a mixture of images, with the most recent addition at first appearing to be cut out in rather odd shapes. But now we have the full original photo in historical imagery we can see that the reason for this is the large amount of cloud cover in the photo.
The reason the image was added at all is because of an ongoing lava flow from the nearby volcano Kilauea and Google have tried to strike a balance between the importance of up to date imagery with cloud cover, and older imagery of better quality. For more on the story, including pictures and video, see here. For more ground level pictures see here. To fly to the location in Google Earth, use this KML file.
Lava flow approaching Pāhoa, Hawaii.
If you look closer you can see wisps of smoke rising from the edges of the flow where it is burning the surrounding vegetation.
Yesterday we talked about large artwork using GPS tracks. Although the artists did travel to the locations involved in their artwork, the record they left, and thus the actual art, was digital rather than physical.
There are, however, some very big works of art that are visible in Google Earth. Here are a few of them.
Desert Breath by D.A.S.T Arteam.
This is the smallest and oldest, but has lasted well and can be seen in both current imagery as well as historical imagery. Read more about it in this post
Mundi Man or Eldee Man by Ando
Drawn in the Mundi Mundi Plains in Australia using a tractor, this can be seen in Google Earth historical imagery from 2002. Read more about it here.
Black Rock Desert by Jim Denevan
Drawn in the Black Rock Desert using trucks and GPS near the location of the Burning Man festival in Nevada. This is the largest of the three. It is visible in historical imagery from September 2010. Read more about it here.
To view them in Google Earth, download this KML file.
Do our readers know of any other artwork at this scale visible in Google Earth?
Tokyo artist, Yassan lays claim to the world’s largest marriage proposal written using GPS tracks shown in Google Earth.
You can see some of his work here and watch a YouTube video about him below:
Yassan is not the only person to think of writing with GPS tracks. Nick Newcomen created some even bigger writing by this method, which we looked at in 2010.
From October last year, Google stopped accepting user created 3D models into Google Earth. Instead, they have been rolling out automatically generated 3D imagery. Both the 3D ‘Earth View’ in Google Maps and the mobile version of Google Earth do not show the user created models – sticking to the automatically generated 3D mesh for some cities, and the 3D terrain (from various sources) for the rest of the earth’s surface.
The video is an ode to Google Earth, the band’s long-standing favourite computer program. As cartographic enthusiasts they’ve spent vast amounts of hours over the years excessively exploring its virtual environments. Last year they noticed its crowd sourced 3D modelling project, which allowed the public to recreate the world’s buildings in 3D form, had come to a close. Millions of these CG SketchUp models are now being replaced by auto-generated 3D mesh buildings through photogrammetry technologies.
To farewell these previous crowd sourced 3D creations, the band wished to have a final celebratory song and dance through some of their favourite sites across the virtual globe. A technological last rites before the new dawn.”
Back in July, Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down over Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board. We showed you some Digital Globe imagery of the crash site, which has since, in addition to other images, been added to Google Earth’s historical imagery.
It is generally believed that flight MH17 was shot down by pro-Russian separatists using a surface-to-air missile, but Russia has put the blame on the Ukrainian government. Official investigations into the crash have not yet made any findings as to who is responsible.
Last Friday, November 14th, 2014, Russian state television aired a story in which they showed satellite imagery purported to be of Flight MH17 being shot down by a fighter jet. However, it seems pretty clear that the image in question was a poorly done fake. For the full story and analysis of the imagery see the the article on bellingcat here.
We have created an image overlay of the photo for you to view in Google Earth which you can download here.
The picture that supposedly shows a fighter jet shooting down flight MH17. A high resolution version can be found here.
The mapping data in the desktop version of Google Earth is currently a separate database from that in Google Maps. The Mobile version of Google Earth was recently given a complete rewrite and now uses the Google Maps data as its source.
In the past, Google would periodically update the Google Earth mapping data from the Maps database, but as far as we can tell that has not happened for at least a year. This means that the street data in Google Earth is now significantly less accurate than the data in Google Maps. However, the search function in Google Earth appears to use the same search engine as Google Maps. This means that even when a road has not been put into Google Earth, it can still be found via the search function if it exists in Google Maps. An example of this is
Lunga St, Livingstone, Zambia which I added to Google Maps in September using Google Map Maker. If you search for it in Google Earth, it finds it and displays it in the correct location even though it does not show in the ‘roads’ layer.
The same is true for many other features found on Google Maps that are not visible by default in Google Earth. Many business locations added to Google Maps using Google My Business do not show in any layer in Google Earth, but can be found using search.
Another street I named recently is Sichango Road. If you search for ‘Sichango Road’, Google Earth finds it correctly. If you search for ‘Sichango Road, Livingstone, Zambia’, Google Earth says ‘We were not able to locate the address’. If you search for ‘Sichango Rd, Livingstone, Zambia’, it does not find the road itself, but does find some nearby businesses.
Lunga St, Livingstone, Zambia can be found through a search even though it is not in Google Earth’s street data.
The Maps Gallery hosts an impressive collection of maps. Although the maps can be viewed directly in the Maps Gallery, many of them are much better viewed with Google Earth, especially for maps that have a lot of detail. There are also a few, such as the collection from the SETI Institute that we showed you, that give a much better global perspective when viewed in Google Earth.
There are two different ways to get Maps from the Maps Gallery into Google Earth. The first is by simply clicking the button near the bottom right corner of the map that says ‘View in Google Earth’. This will download a KML file named ‘map.kml’ and uses a special type of network link that shows the KML under the ‘Layers’ pane in Google Earth instead of the usual ‘Places’. It is impossible to save it in Google Earth, or export it to KML. We believe the purpose of this is a form of copy protection. The downside is that you cannot even save the link, so if you need to view the Map again at a later date, you need to reopen the downloaded ‘map.kml’ file.
The second way to get a map into Google Earth from the Maps Gallery, is by clicking the ‘Share’ button which looks like three dots with lines between them, and is found near the top right corner of the map when viewed in the gallery, or if you have opened the map to full screen it is in the map key near the top left. Select ‘Download KML’ from the drop down menu. This downloads a KML file that can be viewed in Google Earth and loads in the ‘Places’ pane and can be saved to ‘My Places’ or exported to KML.
However, not all maps show the ‘View in Google Earth’ button (such as this one ) and many maps have the ‘Download KML’ option greyed out (this includes the ‘Latest Google Earth Imagery Updates’ map). Also, using the second method, there is the option to download the KML for a particular layer, and in some cases such as this map the only layer available by this method is the map legend, which isn’t very useful. The same map shows all layers in Google Earth when viewed using the first method.
1. View in Google Earth button – loads the map in the ‘Layers’ pane and cannot be saved.
2. ‘Download KML’ link – loads the map in the ‘Places’ pane and it is saveable.
The map shown above can be found here.
The post Viewing maps from the Maps Gallery in Google Earth appeared first on Google Earth Blog.
Hot on the heels of the recent imagery update on November 3rd, Google’s ‘Latest Google Earth Imagery Updates’ map now shows another update for November 8th, 2014. Thank you to GEB readers André and Martin for alerting us to it.
It looks like a very significant update notably to areas that previously had poor coverage.
UPDATE: It appears the update is now visible and imagery has been found by our readers, and confirmed by GEB, in many locations. Lots of new imagery to explore!
However, we have been unable to match the areas outlined to any specific imagery in either Google Earth or Google Maps. Is the imagery not yet published, or was it an update to the base imagery used when zoomed out? Do our readers have any ideas?
UPDATE 2: The imagery is now available in ‘historical imagery’ so you can now also see the imagery that was not in the default layer.
Latest Google Earth Imagery map – November 8th, 2014 Larger version.
In Google Earth, satellite imagery is not always perfectly aligned, which is to be expected, given the complexity of fitting an image that is typically taken at an oblique angle to the earth’s varied terrain. Despite that, in most cases the imagery is remarkably well aligned and can be used to correct mapping data from other sources that is often considerably less accurate. Google has continuously improved their systems to increase the accuracy of imagery placement.
We have recently come across what appears to be a satellite image that is entirely misplaced. GEB reader Horváth inquired about the satellite imagery not matching the street map in Kutaisi, Georgia. We had a look and it is clear that as of this writing, there is a misplaced satellite image for the region. There is correct imagery in ‘historical imagery’, but the default image in Google Earth and Google Maps is incorrect. To see the location for yourself in Google Earth download this KML file. We were unable to identify where the image is from.
Misplaced satellite image in Google Earth.
When zoomed out a little, a correct image can be seen.
On 29th October 2014, there was a landslide in the district of Badulla, Sri Lanka, which hit the village of Koslanda. A site called Groundviews has managed to obtain satellite imagery from Digital Globe showing the landslide and they also include a KML so that you can view it in Google Earth. Find the story and KML here.
The Koslanda landslide – imagery from Digital Globe
This Sunday, the 9th of November 2014, marks the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Four years ago we covered the 21st anniversary, and in 2011 we covered the 50th anniversary of the building of the wall. In 2013 we showed you an image taken from the International Space Station of Berlin at night, which demonstrates the economic and cultural differences between the sides that persist to this day.
To see where the wall used to be, there are a number of maps on Google’s Maps Gallery, including this one. As with many of the maps on the Maps Gallery, it does not say who created it, nor does it have any descriptive information, so we cannot vouch for its accuracy. To view it in Google Earth grab this KML file.
Back in 2005, on the 16th anniversary of the fall of the wall, Google Sightseeing did a post about the largest remaining section of the wall. They included a KML to help you find the location, which you can download here. Back then, there was only low resolution satellite imagery available. Now you can see the location in the new automatically generated 3D, which Berlin recently received, and it is also visible in Street View.
Part of the Berlin Wall in Google Earth.
Part of the Berlin Wall in Street View.
Back in 2012 we brought you the story of Saroo Brierley who as a child got lost on a train in India, was adopted by a Tasmanian couple and, as an adult, found his way home using Google Earth. We followed up with more details in this post and in 2013, Google created a YouTube video about it which we covered here. Saroo has also written a book about his experience titled “A Long Way Home”.
Now the story is to be made into a movie called ‘Lion’ with Nicole Kidman and Dev Patel (of Slumdog Millionaire fame) expected to star in it. See this story for more details.
Saroo Brierley’s book A Long Way Home now to be made into a movie.
In our month end post we mentioned that GEB reader ‘munden’ had found updated imagery. Thanks also to GEB readers ‘Mapmaker’, Frank, Georg, and Sladys for letting us know about additional areas in the comments and via email. Now, Google have updated their ‘latest Google Earth Imagery’ map, showing the date 3rd November 2014. However, the aforementioned areas are not part of this current update, so it seems that once again Google have skipped telling us about an update.
I found out about the current update because I got an email from Google’s Follow Your World app that lets you monitor locations you are interested in and my home town of Livingstone, Zambia, was part of the update.
Latest Google Earth Imagery map – November 3rd, 2014. Larger version.
To view the map in Google Earth you can download this KML.
[Update: Thank you to GEB reader Maarten for letting us know that there was an update that we missed for October 21st, 2014 and for sending us a screen shot as seen below. ]
Google Earth Imagery map – October 21st, 2014. Larger version.
Satellite imagery can be beautiful, and as a result, a number of people have used satellite imagery as art. For example, in 2010 we showed you the USGS “Earth as Art” collection, and earlier this year we talked about Roosmarijn Pallandt, who designs carpets using satellite imagery.
If you can’t get enough of satellite imagery, and you are a user of Google Chrome, there is a nice extension called Earth View (created by Google) that shows a different satellite image from Google Maps every time you open a new tab. I have been trying it out over the last couple of weeks, and although I missed some of the features of Chrome’s default ‘New Tab’ page, I am now used to it and really love the imagery. Find the Earth View extension in the Google Play store here.
Earth View shows you a different satellite image every time you open a new tab in Chrome.
I would like to see a number of additions to the extension, including:
- The option to use it as a background to the default ‘New Tab’ page rather than replacing it altogether.
- An ‘Open in Google Earth’ button in addition to the current links to Google Maps.
- A similar product that works as either a desktop background changer, or screen saver, or both.
- Occasional 3D scenery in addition to the top down satellite imagery.
If you have tried out the extension, what additions would you like to see?
In the past people have found faces hidden in satellite imagery, and the German design studio Onformative even went so far as to write a program to scan the whole globe using face recognition software. We have looked at unusually shaped buildings before, including a building shaped like a swastika. We have also pointed you to GoogleSightseeing.com’s collection of interestingly shaped pools.
A recent story in the news is about designer Yousuke Ozawa creating a font out of satellite images of buildings. See the full story here.
Satellite font by Yousuke Ozawa.
It turns out, however, that he is not the first to think of this. Back in 2008 we discovered via Google Maps Mania a clever site called geoGreeting that lets you send a message using letters made from buildings.
The intro-message on geoGreeting.
The biggest story of the month was the release of Google Earth for Android version 8. Find Frank’s review of the changes and new features here. The most notable feature is a complete rewrite of the 3D engine.
Google have continued to add 3D imagery, the most notable additions being Berlin and Madrid. If you haven’t already done so, be sure to download the KML of 3D areas from this post. A big thanks to all the GEB readers that continue to contribute towards it.
Berlin and Madrid get the new 3D.
Although, as of this writing, Google’s map of imagery updates has not been updated since the 4th of October, GEB reader ‘munden’ has told us that a number of imagery updates have been made, including:
China: Dalian, Xiaoping Island.
Denmark: Rosensgade, Aarhus.
Egypt: Port Said, Ismailia, Cairo, Alexandria.
Turkey: Izmir, Körfez, Tavşanlı, Maltepe, Çayırova, Adana.
Iran: Bandar Abbas, Tehran.
Japan: Soma, Izumi, Sendai and a strip of imagery along the port of Himeji.
New Zealand: Glorit, Hobbiton (search will show it at Matamata, Waikato).
Russia: Bukhta Krasheninnikova.
[Update: see comments below post for additional areas found by GEB readers. ]
My favorite stories of the month were:
Google’s Skybox for Good program, which provides nonprofits with access to satellite imagery from Skybox Imaging’s satellites.
The Seti Institute’s maps of various planets and moons, which allow us to transform Google Earth into a solar system explorer.
The USGS 3D Elevation Program that promises significantly enhanced elevation data for the US.
What were your favorite stories?
Earlier this month we showed you a gif animation of the historical imagery of Europe. It was created by taking screenshots of Google Earth then combining them into an animated gif. However, doing that for every continent would be tedious, so instead we have decided to do it using the Google Earth plugin.
Although we have expressed concern about the future of the GE plugin, and a number of sites that used to use the plugin are starting to move to alternatives, it is, nevertheless, still a very useful tool.
If you have a browser that supports the Google Earth plugin you should see the Earth below. Rotate it to your favorite continent and click start. You should see the historical imagery toolbar in the top left corner of the plugin. If nothing happens, try refreshing the page and clicking start again.
For most parts of the world, the above settings will work fine, but we included them in case you wish to tweak them a bit for specific locations. Also try zooming in to see effects reminiscent of Google’s Timelapse.
If your browser does not support the plugin then you can see the results in the YouTube video below.
The post Animating historical imagery using the Google Earth plugin appeared first on Google Earth Blog.
With Halloween on Friday, this is a good time to get your pumpkin decorations finished. If you are having trouble covering your house with pumpkins, then why not cover the whole earth with one instead? Back in 2006, Frank created an Earth sized pumpkin that you can download here and view in Google Earth.
Since most of our regular readers will have already seen the Pumpkin Google Earth before, we thought we would add a little extra this year, so grab this KML as well for a bit more Halloween atmosphere. For the best effect be sure to turn off the “Atmosphere”. There are four backgrounds included so try them all out. It is relatively easy to modify the KML and put in your own background images. If you use an image with writing on, be sure to save it as a mirror image.
Images obtained from:
Yesterday we talked about Skybox, which is owned by Google and currently has two satellites, but is planning a constellation of 24. When we talked about their gif animations of the Burning Man festival, we also pointed out a YouTube video that they say is the first HD resolution video of Earth from space. More videos from Skybox can also be found here
We recently came across this interesting article about a startup, Satellogic, that is planning to launch hundreds of satellites and provide live video and regular pictures with global coverage.
From their website:
We are building a constellation of satellites to image any spot on earth every few minutes.”
It won’t be as high resolution as the best images from Digital Globe, and we must remember that at any given time much of the globe is obscured by cloud cover, but global coverage with live video or pictures every few minutes is still exciting stuff!
BugSat-1 in a clean room.
The internals of a satellite.
The post Satellogic planning to achieve global coverage with live video and pictures appeared first on Google Earth Blog.
Back in June 2014, Google acquired Skybox Imaging. In September, Skybox provided an impressive demonstration of their capabilities by capturing images of the Burning Man festival and producing animated gifs of its progress.
Now Skybox has announced the Skybox for Good program. Under the new program Skybox will work with non-profits to provide fresh satellite imagery where they need it. Of special interest is the fact that the images obtained via this program are being released under a Creative Commons By Attribution license (CC BY 4.0), which allows anyone to view and use the images.
Mining in the Appalachians – see the Skybox blog for details.