Google Earth is the three-dimensional planetary browser that shows our entire planet (well, minus a few top-secret military bases) in satellite imagery and aerial photos. It should not be confused with Google Maps, as these are two separate services/programs.
Google Earth allows you to explore the world with the tip of your fingers. It’s like having a virtual tour of places you want to visit. Whether you’re feeling nostalgic about seeing your hometown or want to explore where to travel next, Google Earth puts the whole world in your hands.
What is Google Earth?
Google Earth lets you view a 3D representation of the Earth. You can freely spin the globe and zoom in to explore places. Alternatively, you can input a location name, address, or coordinates.
It’s different from Google Maps. “Google Maps is about finding your way. Google Earth is about getting lost,” says Gopal Shah, Google Earth’s product manager. You can even go on a virtual tour of the world with Google Earth.
Google Earth combines all of Google’s powerful mapping tools. You can see place names, road markings, weather data, and more, all from within the tool. Not only can you view flat satellite imagery, but you can also tilt the camera to get a 3D perspective. This isn’t available everywhere, but it’s a fantastic experience for major cities and landscapes.
Google Earth is available for browsers and for desktop. The desktop version offers more features (known as Google Earth Pro), so that’s the one to use if you want to get the most from Google Earth.
How Does Google Earth Collect Images?
The images you see on Google Earth get collected over time from providers and platforms. You can see shots in street view, aerial, and 3D. However, these images are not real-time, so it is impossible to see live changes.
Some images show a single acquisition date, while others display a range of dates taken over days or months. Suppose you want more information about when an image got created. In that case, it is best to contact the original provider, as Google is unable to give you more information about the images it displays.
How Often Does Google Earth Update Photos, Maps, and Street View?
As per Google Earth’s official blog, Google Earth updates about once a month. However, this doesn’t mean that every picture or image on Google Earth is updated every month. In fact, the average map data on Google Earth is between one and three years old. Google Earth does update every month, but a small portion and it is impossible for an average person to detect those updates.
One to three years time range is intelligible given how many images and pictures are required to create Google Earth. There are so many satellites capturing images in space, among other places, that Google can use for this project.
Areas of interest or high density are more likely to be updated than rural villages. This is because these areas are prone to greater change, but also because these areas are the most frequently searched and viewed by users. For example, New York will update regularly with high detail images because Google can fly its aircraft to collect imagery and there will be many third-party companies to provide satellite imagery.
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Some locations are rarely or never updated due to security reasons. The images of these places may be old, blurry, or entirely blacked out. This is typically due to requests from governments or personal lawsuits. Google might also stop updating a certain area if they discover that the imagery is being used for military intelligence or crime. The same goes for no-fly zones and conflict areas.
Time and Money
Time and money are scarce resources. When you zoom in on Google Earth, to the point where you can see your car clearly parked on your driveway, then that’s the work of aerial photography. However, if your house is a barely discernible brown blob amidst a landscape of psychedelic blurs, then that’s the work of a satellite suspended above the equator.
Obviously, it takes time for these aircraft to run those photography update missions. They are also run by a number of private companies, not by Google itself, so getting all these images pieced together takes even more time. Not only does it take time, but it also costs money to collect these images, compile them, edit them, and upload them.
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There’s no point snapping photos of a place that is constantly covered by clouds. There’d be nothing to see! As such, it can sometimes take time for Google to get clear shots that aren’t impeded by the weather. An example of this is London. When Google wants to fly their aircraft to snap high-resolution photos, they have to wait a long time to capture photos when it isn’t raining or overcast.
Average Map update frequency
This data may differ. The fact is that the average map update frequency is from one to 3 years. Technically, it is very difficult to constantly update maps of all areas and systematize them, marking all changes in the form of color markings. Satellite maps, aerial surveys, and Google Street View also contribute to this. Some Google Earth users note that their locations are not updated for more than 3 years, the process of updating maps can even take 5+ years.
How are maps updated?
Maps are never updated in large areas at once. Updating is done gradually, changing small areas. Each area on the map has its own priority. Less popular places are updated relatively less frequently than touristy places. So if you are waiting for your street map to be updated, it will not happen rapidly. However, there are major updates to Google Earth for U.S. states and cities. When you update, the developers release a KLM file that shows all available updates and upcoming changes on the map in the form of color markers and lines.
Why don’t map updates happen more often?
This is due to the fact that the data for maps comes from different sources and it takes quite a long time to integrate updates into Google Earth. At least the developers are trying to take into account the fact that certain areas on the map are in demand and update them more often, as noted above in the text.
Are the images in Google Earth real-time?
If you think that you can zoom in to your current location and see yourself standing on the street, then you might want to reconsider. As we have mentioned above, all the images are gathered from different satellites. But can you get real-time images of the places you see? Well, the answer is No. Satellites collect the images as they revolve around the earth over time, and it takes a specific cycle for each satellite to manage and update the images.