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The amazing things about Google Earth
Mis à jour : il y a 1 heure 41 min

Some insight into Google Earths 3D imagery

il y a 5 heures 40 min

We recently came across the YouTube video below about Google Earth’s 3D imagery. It gives some insight into how it is gathered and we also get to see some of the faces behind Google Earth such as Google Earth Product Manager Gopal Shah.

Apparently the aircraft used to gather the 3D imagery use five cameras, one facing down then four others pointed in different directions. The ‘stereo’ imagery is not actually achieved by two cameras taking photos from different angles, but rather each single camera taking multiple photos as the aircraft is moving effectively achieving a stereo effect. Previous analysis we have done (1 2 ) suggests that each camera captures four images in quick succession to get the ‘stereo’ effect for any given location and then imagery from multiple passes from different sides of the location are combined to create the final 3D.

Also interesting is that Gopal seems to imply that cars are manually removed from the imagery rather than via an automated process. Not mentioned in the video is the fact that Google pays special attention to some structures like bridges, harbour cranes and certain intricate buildings using more manual methods. We believe the manual part of the process is the main reason 3D imagery often takes a long time between when the images were captured and when they are published in Google Earth.

It must also be pointed out that Google is continually improving the process and the latest releases of 3D imagery are significantly better quality than the oldest 3D imagery.

The post Some insight into Google Earths 3D imagery appeared first on Google Earth Blog.

Catégories: Sites Anglophones

Performance Tests on New Web Google Earth

lun 24-04-2017

The new Google Earth released last week is not yet a replacement for the classic Google Earth (version 7 and earlier). It is an early release of an effort by Google to completely re-write the 12 year old application to make it more current for new platforms the majority of people are utilizing today. Hence, the new GE is a web-based application and a mobile app. They started with a version which focuses on finding and learning about the wealth of information available in Google Earth. The new GE is still missing the majority of the value-added features that serious users of Google Earth rely upon. Google also focused on getting the new version to run well on the new platforms for the first release. This post examines the performance of the graphics update rates as it compares to classic Google Earth as a dedicated desktop application.

My perception at first was that the new web-based Google Earth was not performing as well as classic. Other people have said the same in feedback to this blog. But, my tests have revealed it is technically performing quite well in a web browser. But, there is a problem which causes a perception of slowness. Please excuse me if I get a bit verbose, but hopefully a few of you will find this interesting. Especially Google.

I have been running tests on an old laptop (2011 model), and on a new Windows PC with a brand new graphics card (current top consumer device). What I was interested in was the frames per second rendered of the 3D scene, because low frame rates can result in jerky movements on the screen. Anything less than 30 FPS is very noticeable, and for serious computer graphics users (especially gamers), less than 60 FPS is considered not good. But, ultimately, we wanted to know whether the new web-based GE was performing as well as the classic desktop application.

The good news, for those of you who are not technical, is that the new web-based GE performs very well and performs technically as well as classic GE on both Windows and Mac OS (on my older laptop). On the same 3D views of the same cities, they both tested at pretty much identical top performance once the scene had loaded. My faster desktop ran at full monitor refresh rates (144Hz) once things were loaded. The laptop typically ran at 60Hz or higher despite being almost 6 years old. Interestingly, sometimes a few locations seemed to load the data notably faster with the web version than with classic. But, I think this had to do with some anomalous data I discovered (and reported to Google) for a few locations. I did load the new Google Earth while on a hotel WIFI in New York on Tuesday and I didn’t notice any surprising issue with load times and it seemed comparable between the two versions.

Perceived Slowness

So, technically the new GE runs on a par with classic GE in terms of graphics performance. I was actually surprised by this result, because in the past web applications have run sub-par for graphics compared to dedicated applications. This may indicate Google made the right choice to create its next generation GE as a web application. We have to note though that it is only available to Chrome, so it is not truly a generic web application. Will they be able to make it run as well with other browsers?

Nevertheless, some people who have used classic GE have reported they feel the new one isn’t running as fast. And, I noticed this as well. This has to do with the navigational methods of the new GE (as in moving the scene with your mouse). Not technically the graphics performance. See points below.

Scroll Zooming

For example, if you use the mouse scroll wheel to zoom in, most mouse wheels will have a noticeable “click” for each increment of movement. With classic GE, they animate several frames of movement between each movement for a click of the mouse wheel. This gives a very fluid sense of movement. The new web GE does not do this. It just moves you the entire distance in one jump, which makes it seem you are “skipping” frames to move the same distance. I have already suggested to Google they should fix this and other points below.

Rotating with Mouse

If you hold down the middle mouse button (or hold down the SHIFT key and the left mouse button) you can rotate about a point you have selected with the mouse cursor. This can be a nice way to rotate about a building or a mountain for example. Here, both the web GE and classic GE seem to work similarly. You can still get a jerky behavior if you move your mouse in a jerky way, but if you move you mouse smoothly you get a mostly smooth “animation”.

Animated rotation

If you use the new GE “orbit” feature, Google will do an animated rotation around a point on your screen. This can be done with either the 2D/3D button, or the keyboard shortcut “o”. The first time you hit the button (or shortcut) it tilts to looking straight down (2D like). The next time you hit it, it tilts the view and starts rotating your view (although not the center for some reason). I do wish for a rotation speed control in the settings for this.

Classic GE doesn’t have this feature, but it was the first time I realized the new web GE was higher frame rates because the motion was fluid (high frame rate). Classic GE has a much better feature though. If you click and hold the right mouse button, while pointing at an object, in classic GE you can do a cinematic rotate and zoom in and out by moving right left and forward back. Here Google animates about each point of movement with the mouse and it is very fluid. It is my favorite built-in navigation feature in classic GE. Unfortunately, the new GE does not implement this right mouse button navigation control. Right mouse button on the web GE instead does just a basic zoom in/out feature, and does not animate between inputs so it is not fluid.


As many of you know, the most popular way to fly around classic Google Earth for over 10 years has been a special 3D mouse called SpaceNavigator by 3DConnexion. Serious fans have these, and I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard people complain they can’t use Google Earth without it after they have used one for a while. In fact, recently it’s been a very vocal complaint because the new web GE doesn’t support it. The reason is that classic GE supports this input device and all 3D motions are animated and it lets you pan, tilt, rotate, and zoom all simultaneously for a very cinematic experience. Needless to say, it was one of my first requests for the new GE. Please Google, support it! Your biggest fans will appreciate it.


So, these are the primary reasons I’ve found that the new web based Google Earth gives a sense of “jerky”, non-animated, motion when you are moving the scene around. The problem is not a performance issue, it is navigational UI implementation issues. But, these problems can be solved. Hopefully, Google will take the feedback and implement more fluid motion in a release you won’t have to download because it is now a web application. I should note that the mobile version of the new GE does move quite fluid. This may have to do with the interface for input from the touch screen being more intimately tied to the web application interface on Android. I expect the same results on IOS when they release an app for it.

The post Performance Tests on New Web Google Earth appeared first on Google Earth Blog.

Catégories: Sites Anglophones

A Tour Maker for the new Google Earth

lun 24-04-2017

Last week we had a look at the new Voyager tours in the new Google Earth and suggested that Google create a tour maker or at least release instructions on how to create them. It turns out that, Josh of GE Teach, has managed to figure out how it is done and has released a simple tour maker for the new Google Earth. GE Teach is an excellent site we have covered a number of times in the past.

To use the tour maker simply go here and follow the instructions in the video below.

The tour maker is fairly rudimentary at present, allowing you to create placemarks with photos that open in the new side bar. But it is easy to use and produces great results and we expect he will add more features in the future. In addition, if you are looking to create more complex tours, the above tour maker is a good place to start to see how the new Google Earth’s tour system works.

One important thing to note is that although the tours are KML they do not run well in Google Earth Classic. Hopefully, Google will update the classic version to handle some of the new features.

Looking into the created KML files it seems Google has added some new custom tags to KML such as <gx:displayMode>h; which can be set to ‘fullscreen’ or ‘panel’. We hope they update the KML documentation to include these extensions and how to use them.

Note that the GE Teach Tour Maker does not use the Tour features of KML, but instead creates a series of placemarks with links between them.

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Catégories: Sites Anglophones

Voyager in the new Google Earth

ven 21-04-2017

This week Google released a new, browser based version of Google Earth. One of the first features you should check out in the new Earth is ‘Voyager’ (the ship’s wheel symbol). It consists of a number of interesting tours and resources from third party providers similar in concept to the ‘Gallery’ layer in Google Earth Classic.

Some of the tours just use placemarks to give context to content that is mostly presented in popups and videos, but others make good use of Google Earth features such as image overlays and photo-spheres. For example, Land Art From Above by DigitalGlobe uses image overlays to show DigitalGlobe imagery of various sights, some of which are not available in Google Earth imagery. Cherry Blossoms in Full Bloom makes use of Street-View-like photo-spheres (that cannot be found in Street View).

We have previously looked at the work of “Jorge Rodríguez-Gerada” but this image of “Wish” never made it into Google Earth imagery.

Cherry Blossoms in Full Bloom makes use of photospheres.

We hope Google publishes documentation on how to create tours of this nature and provides a mechanism for sharing them. similar to the Google Maps Gallery, that used to be a significant feature in Google Earth but whose prominence was somewhat harmed by the demise of Google Earth Engine. Google Maps Gallery can still be found based on ‘My Maps’ but the integration with Google Earth was removed in one of the recent updates to Google Earth Classic.

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Catégories: Sites Anglophones

Fun stuff to do with the new Google Earth URL

jeu 20-04-2017

This week Google released a new version of Google Earth that runs in the browser. One aspect of this is that it now has a URL that changes as you change the view. Today, we are having a look at this URL and what you can do with it.

The simplest way to utilise the URL is with links. Simply find a location of interest, copy the URL and use it in a link. This is exactly the same as you would do with Google Maps. So, for example, here is a link to the Eiffel Tower. This includes state such as what is being looked at, what information pages are open, etc. However, it cannot be used, at this time, to share your own content.

It is important to remember that the new Google Earth is only currently available in Chrome on the desktop (see this post if you are having trouble getting it to work in Chrome) and as an app on Android. So, links, like the one above, require the user to open it in either Chrome desktop, or, on mobile, to have the Google Earth app installed and select to open it in that (which does work nicely).

It is also possible to embed a location in a web page using either the <embed> tag or the <iframe> tag. Simply set the ‘src’ attribute to the URL of the location you wish to show. Again, the result will only be visible to users with Chrome Desktop. If you are viewing this page on another browser or mobile you will probably just see a blank space below.

Sadly, we didn’t find a way to dynamically change the URL without reloading the iframe – otherwise we would have had an API in the making.

We did manage to embed Google Earth in a placemark, but it wouldn’t load beyond the initial splash screen.

A Google Earth inception moment. Google Earth in a placemark.

Parts of the URL
If you understand how the URL works, you can achieve certain views not possible using ordinary mouse navigation. A typical URL looks something like this:,2.294,146.726a,666.616d,35y,0h,45t,0r/data=KAI

What we have identified so far:
The first two numbers are latitude and longitude. The next numbers end with a single letter and are as follows:
a: altitude of the location you are viewing.
d: distance of your eye from the point being viewed.
y: the field of view.
h: height exaggeration.
t: the ’tilt’ or the angle you are viewing at with 0 being straight down, 90 being horizontal and >90 looking up. You can even go past 180 for some interesting views (see links below).
r: the rotation of the view.

The last section starting with /data= can include a long string of characters relating to any information windows you have open, or it may simply have ‘KAI’ which means ‘rotate clockwise around the point being viewed’. If anyone finds out how to rotate counter clockwise, please let us know in the comments.

For some mind bending experiences try:
Exaggerated height and large field of view
Upside down effect using an angle over 180.
A negative distance and high angle to pan across the horizon

The post Fun stuff to do with the new Google Earth URL appeared first on Google Earth Blog.

Catégories: Sites Anglophones

Google Earth VR Now on Oculus Rift

mar 18-04-2017

I was just at the Google Earth press announcement today in New York. In a back room, they had Google Earth VR running on HTC Vive systems. After asking about whether they had a new version, they revealed they had a new version out which now runs on Oculus Rift (with Touch controllers). Google had done something similar where their 3D Paint program Google Tiltbrush ran first on HTC Vive. Then after Touch launched on Oculus Touch, they soon released Tiltbrush on Rift as well.

The new version also adds the ability to search for a place on a keyboard (using an onscreen 3D keyboard). The first version, released last November, was sadly missing this feature.

You can read the Google announcement here.

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Catégories: Sites Anglophones

First Review of New Google Earth

mar 18-04-2017

New York 3D in New GE

Google has released a new version of Google Earth today that has been re-designed for a new generation of 3D mapping applications. This first release is not a program you have to download and install on desktop OSes (Windows, Mac, Linux, Chromebook). It is a web application that loads in your browser. Specifically, this will load today only in Chrome browsers. But, this means that platforms like Chromebooks will now be able to run a version of Google Earth for the first time, and support for Linux should be more robust (where Chrome is available – and other specs required). And, there is a mobile app as well (the Chrome version will not work on Chrome for mobile). The mobile app appears to be fully as capable as the Chrome version, but is only available for Android so far. So, Apple users will have to wait until an IOS app becomes available.

The new Google Earth version is only a subset of the legacy Google Earth (let’s call it classic Google Earth – version 7 or lower) in terms of features. But, it has obviously been carefully designed for a beautiful, user-friendly experience that is remarkably consistent between the desktop and mobile. It also looks a lot more like current Google Maps, so it is consistent with new interface design. This version makes it easier to discover new content, and visualize the 3D imagery of cities and other places that Google has been adding the last few years. This seems to be the primary focus of this release. You also have access to Street View imagery (and user-contributed photospheres) and can share links to specific Street Views.

From what we have seen, the speed moving around is comparable to the desktop Classic GE. This is significant as we expected there might be a performance hit compared to a dedicated install application. Google must have worked wonders to make this happen. We will do more analysis in the coming days, but I did some quick checking on frame update rates and it was comparable in performance between the web version to classic GE in tests on my laptop here. The user interface is not quite as fluid on the web as classic GE (more on this in a later post).

Feeling lucky?

There is a cool new feature that lets you push a “dice” icon that is the Google search equivalent of “Feeling lucky?” that randomly flies you to an interesting place on the Earth and provides a knowledge card about that place. The knowledge card can be clicked on to expand and share other relevant data and other places of interest surrounding it. This is a wonderful tool in my opinion as it will encourage people to explore in new ways.


The new GE has a ship helm wheel icon that is labeled “Voyager” that is a new way to explore a wealth of content Google has collated for interesting places and things on Earth. They are like a tour of information about a topic which fly you to interesting places relevant to the topic. There appears to be a huge amount of information available.

KML Support Still in Early Stages

The new Google Earth does support KML. However, it is not a complete implementation yet. Google says they plan to implement more KML features in future updates. It also is not as easy to load KML content on the browser version. You have to go to “My Places” and click on a link to import KML you want to load. And, you have to have the file already downloaded. We will be researching what KML features work with the new GE and report on our tests.

Things Missing, Don’t Worry

This release of the new Google Earth is missing most of the creation tools more serious fans of classic GE like to use. All the features from classic to create KML content are basically not available. Also, a long list of important features are missing like measuring distances, historical imagery, time animations, tours, GPS tracking, Flight Simulator, and more. The good news is that classic GE will still be available, so you can continue to use it if you enjoy those features. And, you’ll be able to create KML content with it that can be shared with new GE. Google says future versions of the new GE will implement “many” of the missing features. No promises on all of them of course. At some point, the new GE might meet, and even exceed, the features of classic – and classic will probably stop being supported at that point. One feature they must implement though is support for the 3D mouse called SpaceNavigator. Serious fans of classic GE know this device is the best way to fly through 3D data. I made sure to point this out to Google – but, they already know it because lots of Googlers use it too.


As expected, this new Google Earth will not be a replacement for the classic Google Earth. There are too many powerful features built into GE’s 12 year-old system to implement all at once. But, the new Google Earth does an excellent job of providing a new generation experience for exploring the Earth with a wealth of new ways to experience our beautiful planet. And, it accomplishes the goal of moving the application from a legacy platform of different programs for different OSes (which have to be downloaded and installed) to a web-based model (with the exception of mobile) which can be updated transparently and quickly.

We will be reporting in more detail as we look at things more closely. But, we are impressed with this first release. We hope the public at large will really like the new application and maybe re-discover classic Google Earth’s more powerful features if they want to do more. If all goes well with its popularity, I’m sure Google will work hard to implement more features and capabilities in the new GE.

The post First Review of New Google Earth appeared first on Google Earth Blog.

Catégories: Sites Anglophones

New Google Earth Web Version Available Now

mar 18-04-2017

Went to check the Google Earth home page ahead of the press announcement this morning. Turns out there is a new home page which announces right at the top “Launch Earth for Chrome” with a big title saying “Gain a new perspective” followed by “Explore the reaches of the world, right in your browser”. Screenshot below:

New Google Earth

Scrolling down the page and you see there’s a world to explore with a new feature called Voyager. And there’s a new Google Earth for Android version as well.

Back at the top, there is a button that says “Launch Google Earth” which all you have to do (with your Chrome browser only) is go to: Earth.Google.Com/web and you can see the new Google Earth which is out today!

As predicted, it appears today’s announcement is about a web-based version of Google Earth. And, it is WebGL based. In fact, I had a bit of a problem starting it because I have an old Macbook Pro (2011 model). The new version failed to load because it said WebGL wasn’t supported. What I had to do was open “chrome://flags” and select the first option “Override Software Rendering list“, select the “Relaunch” button, and then the new Google Earth version loaded in my browser. Hopefully, the vast majority of folks will either get the Android version, or not run into this issue on newer machines. And, those of you on Chromebooks will be able to open it too!

Upon launching, you get a first-time introductory tour which shows you some features. I checked out New York City (where I am now), and here’s what I got:

New York 3D in New GE

But, I can easily share this same view with you by simply sharing my URL. This is the same way Google Maps has worked on the desktop browser for a long time.

When you search for something, a little knowledge card appears about that place. If you click on that, the page expands and gives a lot more information about the place and links to related searches with similar information. This new version of Google Earth is very much focused on providing useful information about places.

There’s a lot more to explore and comment on this new version. But, I just wanted to get the word out now. I’ll be attending the press announcement and will report more in a few hours.

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Catégories: Sites Anglophones

Attending Press Announcement for New Google Earth

lun 17-04-2017

As was mentioned last week by dozens of media outlets, Google sent out press invitations to an event for April 18th to roll out a “brand new Google Earth” experience. I will be attending and will report on this long-awaited event!

New Google Earth

Google didn’t say much in their invitation, and we have yet to receive any press material. But, we believe this announcement will describe a new version of Google Earth that will work on desktop and mobile platforms. Our guess is that there will be a web based version on desktop OSes – most likely with WebGL, which is the predominant standard being used for graphics intensive web apps today. If it is browser based, it means more OS platforms will have access to Google Earth content. We’ll have to wait and see whether the new application will have new features beyond the current Google Earth, or a subset.

Google Earth VR Update?

There may also be announcements about new features/versions of the Google Earth VR application which was released last November for HTC Vive VR platform. There have been no significant updates to that application, and we expect Google is likely to release an Oculus Rift version (since they recently released a Rift Touch version of their Google Tiltbrush VR paint application for the HTC). Or, we may see a version for Google’s Daydream VR platform – although that will be a less-capable version since Daydream VR doesn’t currently support HMD tracking or full 3D controllers.

Other New Content

It’s also possible there will be an unveiling of more Google Earth 3D imagery (aireal imagery converted to 3D data using photogrammetry), and content especially geared towards the new versions. Google has a history of doing this for major updates to Google Earth. There was less 3D imagery added in 2016, but they may have been saving up for this announcement.

As long time fans of Google Earth, we are going to be watching closely to see if this new Google Earth will support popular features from the more than 12 year legacy of Google Earth desktop applications. Keep following Google Earth Blog during, and after, the event for all the latest news and analysis. We have been reporting on Google Earth applications and content for nearly 12 years now.

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Catégories: Sites Anglophones

Calibration marks for a classified spy mission

ven 14-04-2017

We recently came across this interesting article about some mysterious crosses in the Arizona desert around Casa Grande. Also see here. Apparently the crosses were used as calibration targets for the Corona Missions. See here for an analysis of the resolution of the Corona imagery.

A selection of the crosses as seen in Google Earth imagery

We thought it would be interesting to try and find all the crosses in Google Earth imagery. The article referenced the location of one of them, and finding more was relatively easy as they are laid out in a grid pattern with approximately one mile between crosses. We marked quite a few, and then came across a KML file in this thread which included quite a number we had not found. We combined our collection with that KML file and now have a total of 138 markers, and an additional three that we are unsure of and one that we believe was broken up.

Wikipedia says there were originally 272 laid out in a 17×17 grid. 17×17 is 289, so some points on the grid were never filled. It is probable that some points were unsuitable due to unfavourable terrain, or the government was unable to lease the land. Many of the grid points are now residential areas or farm land so some of the crosses were probably removed. Nevertheless, there are still a number within residential areas. The distances between the crosses is not exact, and they don’t all line up exactly. Although most of them have the cross lined up with the cardinal directions, not all of them are so aligned.

The locations of all the markers we were able to find.

See the full collection in Google Earth with this KML file

We will explore other calibration targets around the world in a future post. If you know the locations of any such targets, let us know the coordinates in the comments below.

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Catégories: Sites Anglophones

The New Google Earth is finally coming April 18

jeu 13-04-2017

Google has sent press invitations announcing a first look at the “brand new” Google Earth on April 18. Just in time for Earth Day (which is April 22). Anyone reading this blog, which has been a fan blog about Google Earth since its inception in 2005, knows we have been waiting anxiously for a new version of Google Earth. It’s been five years since the last major release for Google Earth. We have been worried about the future of one of the world’s most popular applications during the past decade. But, Google has been promising us a new version is coming. They talked about it two years ago for Earth Day 2015, as the 10th anniversary of Google Earth approached. We can’t wait to see it.

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Catégories: Sites Anglophones

California’s Super Bloom in satellite imagery

mer 12-04-2017

We recently came across this interesting article which features imagery from satellite imaging company Planet, showing the flower blooms in California between December 2016 and March 2017. Although the region normally goes through an annual change, this year was especially dramatic due to heavy rains after years of drought. The article shows before and afters using imagery from Planet’s Planet Explorer Beta.

We thought it would be interesting to also check Landsat and Sentinel-2 imagery of the region.
We used our Landsat animations and Sentinel-2 animations KML files to find the best images.

Here is a ‘before and after’ using Landsat thumbnail images as provided on Amazon Web Services. This is an area just north of Los Angeles and we can see how much greener it is. However, the latest image is from late February and it seems the main flower bloom was in March.

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Landsat thumbnail comparison: August 14th, 2015 vs February 24th, 2017.

So, we also downloaded Sentinel-2 imagery of the region and processed it at full resolution. Here is just a small area showing a yellow flower bloom:

Sentinel-2 imagery comparison: July 31st, 2016 vs March 28th, 2017. Copernicus Sentinel data, 2017.

And here is a region with some purple:

Sentinel-2 imagery comparison: July 31st, 2016 vs March 28th, 2017. Copernicus Sentinel data, 2017.

You can also see a portion of the Sentinel-2 image from March 28th, 2017 in Google Earth using this KML file. There is no need for a comparison image as the default imagery in Google Earth is sufficient.

jQuery(document).ready(function() {jQuery(function(){jQuery('.sliders').each(function(i){jQuery(this).beforeAfter({imagePath: '/js/utils/',showFullLinks : false});});});});

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Catégories: Sites Anglophones

Using shadows to tell the time in Google Earth imagery

mar 11-04-2017

Have you ever wondered what time a particular image was captured? Google Earth does not show times, only dates. We noticed in the Google Earth Enterprise documentation that ‘Acquisition date’ only accepts a date and not a time. We assume that Google’s equivalent software for Google Earth has the same limitation.

So, we wondered how easy it would be to tell the time based on shadows in the imagery. Google Earth has the option to show the sun, and if you are lucky, you can adjust the time until the sun lines up with a shadow. However, Google Earth does not allow you to look upwards except in the Flight Simulator, so if the sun is too high in the sky you cannot get it in the view.

[ Update: Frank pointed out to me that you can look up using the ‘eye’ tool in the centre of the compass. I am so used to my 3D connexion mouse that I forget there is any other way to navigate.]

Also, accurately lining it up is tricky.

Note that the time on the ‘time’ toolbar appears to be shown in the computer’s ‘local time’. So the above image was captured at about 1:15 am CAT (UTC +2) which is 11:15 pm UTC or 4:15 pm in California (where the image was captured). (We didn’t check that for daylight savings time complications).

We thought it would be fun to write a tool to calculate time based on shadow angle. As a bonus, the shadow length can tell you the height of the object. We found some open source code here that was created for the ‘’ website. The code isn’t ideal as it converts time to the sun’s angle above the horizon and azimuth whereas we need the reverse, so we run it for each minute of the day and find the closest match. To use it, first switch to ‘historical imagery’ and find an appropriate image and some shadows. Draw a path in Google Earth from the base of an object to the end of its shadow. Use only two points in the path as only the first two points are used by the code. Next, right-click on the path and select ‘Snapshot View’. This stores the date from the historical imagery time bar in the path. Make sure you selected the appropriate date on the time bar first. Now save the path, or a collection of such paths, as a KML file. Upload the file below, and it should show a table listing the approximate time the image was taken in UTC and the estimated height of the object. Unfortunately, we do not know of an easy way to convert time to the correct time zone based on latitude and longitude. Using the tool below for the location in California shown above, we got 11:06 pm UTC, and a height of 14 m for the street light.

table{font-size:12px;}td{padding:3px;}input,select{padding:4px;color:black;border:none}input[type="file"]{width:250px;}table input{width:60px;}

Ideally, do a number of shadows in the same image for greater accuracy. We found variations of over 10 minutes due to the difficulty of accurately marking the shadow angle.

St George Wharf, London, UK.
Image captured on 2015-10-08 at approximately 11:01 am UTC. The tallest building measured 182 m based on its shadow. Using Google Earth Pro’s 3D measuring tool and 3D imagery we got 179 m. According to Wikipedia it is 181 m.

As usual, let us know in the comments if you find any bugs or have ideas for improvements.

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Catégories: Sites Anglophones

Google Earth Enterprise now Open Source

lun 10-04-2017

As we mentioned in February, Google has decided to Open Source Google Earth Enterprise. It is available for download on GitHub.

[ Update: Thank you to GEB reader Eddy Shipman for pointing us to the official Google Earth Enterprise site.]

According to the docs, it only runs on 64-bit versions of:
– Red Hat Enterprise Linux versions 6.0 to 7.2, including the most recent security patches
– CentOS 6.0 to 7.2
– Ubuntu 10.04, 12.04 and 14.04 LTS

Google Earth Enterprise consists of three core components:

Fusion – imports and ‘fuses’ imagery, vector and terrain source data, into a single, flyable 3D globe or 2D map.
Server – Apache or Tornado-based server which hosts the private globes built by Fusion.
Client – the Google Earth Enterprise Client (EC) and Google Maps Javascript API V3 used to view 3D globes and 2D maps, respectively. The client is not open source, but Google is providing it free of charge.

In general, it is an enterprise product and probably not of much interest to the casual user. But if you are in the GIS community and have imagery or even vector-based mapping data you wish to share, it may well be worth a look. There is also an opportunity for cloud services to offer preinstalled versions of it, possibly with Landsat and Sentinel-2 or other open imagery datasets.

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Catégories: Sites Anglophones

China’s new islands in the South China Sea

ven 07-04-2017

Back in 2015 we had a look at the islands that China has been building in the South China Sea. Last year we took another look at Fiery Cross Reef. Many of the islands have grown significantly since then.

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Speed in milliseconds per image:
Fiery Cross Reef.


Speed in milliseconds per image:
Cuarteron Reef.


Speed in milliseconds per image:
Subi Reef.


Speed in milliseconds per image:
Gaven Reef.


Speed in milliseconds per image:
Hughes Reef.


Speed in milliseconds per image:
Johnson South Reef.


Speed in milliseconds per image:
Mischief Reef.


Speed in milliseconds per image:
North Danger Reef.


Speed in milliseconds per image:
Itu Aba Island – expanded harbour


Speed in milliseconds per image:
London Reefs- Central Reef. The island to the top right appears to have grown slightly.


To find the above locations in Google Earth download this KML file.


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Catégories: Sites Anglophones

The War in Yemen

jeu 06-04-2017

Most of the major war zones today are blanket censored in Google Earth, including Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Ukraine. Israel isn’t completely censored, but due to a US law, has only low resolution imagery. Yemen, however, is not censored and we have had a look at bomb damage from the ongoing civil war a number of times in the past. Note that we have only been able to identify destroyed buildings and bomb craters. Other effects of war are not so easy to spot in satellite imagery unless you know where to look.

Bomb craters on the runway at Saada.

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Before and after of some damaged buildings in Saada.

Before and after of Sana’a airport showing further damage since we last looked at it.

Before and after of some damaged buildings in the port of Mocha.

The above are just a small selection of what can be seen. We found a lot more locations in a number of different cities, which we have marked in this KML file.

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Catégories: Sites Anglophones

Google Earth Tour builder: Part 4 – Path-following

mer 05-04-2017

This is part 4 of our series creating a Google Earth Tour builder. Today we are adding the ability to follow a path. Simply create a KML file containing a set of paths and / or placemarks and upload it below. The created tour will follow each path and circle each placemark in sequence. As you can see in the video below, we have not managed to get the path-following smooth. It must also be noted that Google Earth does have a built in feature to create a tour based on a path that we have made use of in the past.

The next steps we have planned are to smooth out the path following and to optionally open placemark balloons during the tour.

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Create Tour

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Catégories: Sites Anglophones

Weird rows of dots in the Amazon

mar 04-04-2017

A couple of years ago a GEB reader asked us about a row of dots he had found in the Amazon. At first we thought it might be a small aircraft and a similar effect to the well-known ‘rainbow effect’.

However, we had a look around the region and found a number of other nearly identical rows of dots. They all occur in imagery labelled ‘CNES/Spot Image’. This is low resolution imagery that has been used in a number of places in Google Earth to fill in the gaps where there is no high resolution satellite imagery available. Sometimes it is just two or three dots, sometimes a long row. All the rows line up in the same direction which strongly suggests that they have something to do with the way the satellite captures the imagery.

There have been seven SPOT satellites so far and since Google Earth does not put a date on the SPOT imagery, we don’t know which satellite in particular the imagery comes from. Many satellites use either a single sensor or a row of sensors, which in combination with a moving mirror can be used to photograph a large area. We have discussed this before with the Landsat 7 satellite. The best explanation we have at present is that a single sensor malfunctions temporarily and this leaves a trail of dots in the image as a result. We considered the possibility that that sensor is being blinded by something highly reflective on the ground such as a tin roof. However, although there are some rows of dots in farmed areas, we could find no obvious correlation between human habitation and the dots.

To see all the dots we have found so far in Google Earth, download this KML file. Do not read too much into the distribution of our placemarks as that has more to do with the extent of SPOT imagery and our search method than anything else.

If any of our readers has noticed a similar effect in other parts of the world, or has a better explanation for their origin, please let us know in the comments.

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Catégories: Sites Anglophones

Google Earth’s internal browser

lun 03-04-2017

In November 2015 we had a look at Google Earth’s internal browser and its capabilities. In January this year, Google Earth was updated to version, including an upgrade to many of the internal components in Google Earth, which subtly changed the look and feel of the interface. We wondered whether or not the internal browser had also received an upgrade – and it turns out that it has.

In November 2015, Google Earth reported:
Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; N; ; en-US) AppleWebKit/532.4 (KHTML, like Gecko) Google Earth Pro/ Safari/532.4

And now it reports:
Mozilla/5.0 (N; Windows NT 6.2; WOW64) AppleWebKit/534.34 (KHTML, like Gecko) Google Earth Pro/ Safari/534.34

And for comparison, the latest Google Chrome is:
Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 10.0; Win64; x64) AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/58.0.3029.41 Safari/537.36

We also used to see what the internal browser’s capabilities are.

As you can see above, Google Earth now scores 169.
For comparison:
Google Earth in 2015 scored 119.
The latest Chrome scores 518. (Interestingly in November 2015, Chrome scored 521, so it’s getting worse).
Firefox scores 474.
Edge scores 460.
Internet Explorer 11 scores 312.

So although Google Earth has improved slightly, it’s still equivalent to a very old browser.

We found that Google Maps can run in a placemark popup, but uses ‘Lite’ mode, which doesn’t support 3D imagery. We also found that the Google home page, does not work at all in a popup, but we were able to open it in Google Earth’s browser using a link in a popup. You can decide whether popup links open in Google Earth or in your default browser using the setting “Tools->Options->General->Display->Display->Show web results in external browser” (Windows) or “Google Earth -> Preferences->General->Display->Display->Show web results in external browser” (Mac).

We did manage to open Bing in a popup, but not Bing Maps:

We were able to search for websites in Bing and open some of them, but strangely, if we searched for Google, we could not open the links to the Google home page.

The biggest problem with the Google Earth internal browser is it has no built in debugger, so when something doesn’t work, it is very difficult to find out why.

Download this KML file for the placemarks we used for the above tests.

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Catégories: Sites Anglophones

The best of Google Earth for March 2017

ven 31-03-2017

3D Imagery
A large batch of 3D imagery was added to Google Earth around March 21st. We had a look at a 3D image of Trumps aircraft spotted in Florida.

Street View
Street View was added to Tunisia and a Vunuatuan Volcano.

Imagery Updates
We had a look at a number of events captured in Google Earth imagery, including:
* A tailings dam collapse in China
* The Gatlinburg, Tennessee Wildfire
* A collaped bridge in India
* Landslides in Kyrgyzstan
* The Australian Open and the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
* A plane crash, a derailed train and a fireworks explosion

We had a look at the enormous volume (petabytes) of imagery being produced by the various imagery providers. Adding to the growth of the imagery, ESA’s Sentinel-2B satellite was successfully launched on March 7th. To help make sense of it all, satellite imaging company Planet released a new version of their Explorer tool, which now includes an ‘historical imagery’ feature. Also, Decartes Labs released an imagery search engine capable of finding imagery using pattern matching.

Google Earth Tour Builder
We have started a series developing a Tour Builder for Google Earth:
Part 1: Circling
Part 2: Arcs
Part 3: Labelling

We had a look at a number of different canal systems:
A water transfer canal project in Brazil
The Suez Canal expansion project
The Panama Canal expansion project

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Catégories: Sites Anglophones