Google uses 700 trillion pixels to update Maps, Earth

We often take Google Maps and Google Earth for granted, but the Mountain View company has updated its cloud-free mosaic with some wonderfully sharp images this week.

Yep, the company has taken advantage of new processing techniques and the Landsat 8 satellite to deliver an updated global mosaic – and the results are rather impressive.

Google said it sifted through over a petabyte of data to deliver this new mosaic, coming three years after its original Earth mosaic. It added that the petabyte of information was made up of 700 trillion individual pixels.

“To put that in perspective, 700 trillion pixels is 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,” the company said in a blog post.

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The company previously used imagery from the Landsat 7 satellite for the original mosaic, but a hardware failure resulted in gaps of missing data.

How does Google manage to get cloud-free mosaics in the first place though? After, all it must be difficult to get cloud-free shots in regions like rain forests and polar areas…

“Satellite images are often cloudy, but not always over the same place, so we looked at millions of images and took the clearest pixels to stitch together this cloud-free and seamless image,” it said.

Google said that the new Landsat 8 satellite also captures more detailed images, at twice the daily frequency of the Landsat 7 satellite.

The new mapping imagery is available across all the company’s mapping products, being available in Google Earth and by choosing the “satellite” option in Google Maps.



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