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NASA inspires Google's newest Earth satellite images

It might be overcast in your area of the globe, but the skies are all clear on Google Maps and Google Earth.

Google has unveiled a new batch of satellite imagery for its mapping products, which provides a better look at planet Earth's landscape. The new imagery of the Earth from space "virtually eliminates clouds" and includes clearer images for regions where high-resolution shots are not yet available, Google Earth Engine tech lead Matt Hancher wrote in a blog post.

The web giant drew inspiration for its new imagery from NASA's highly detailed Blue Marble image of the Earth, which is based on data from the space organisation's so-called MODIS instrument, and offers a resolution of one kilometre per pixel. For its own imagery, however, Google mined hundreds of terabytes of data from the government-owned Landsat 7 satellite.

"The result is a seamless, globally consistent image of the entire planet with a resolution of 15 meters per pixel, far finer than is possible with MODIS data alone," Hancher wrote.

The search giant's resulting image comes in at a whopping 800,000 megapixels, he added. To put that in perspective, if you wanted to print it out, you would need a piece of paper the size of a city block.

Google warned, however, that some of the new imagery might include strange black stripes due to an early Landsat 7 hardware failure. The company was able to eliminate most of these stripes, as well as clouds and other atmospheric events, by analysing many different Landsat images. Even so, these obstructions are still visible in some areas.

Going forward, Google's satellite imagery of Earth will get even better, Hancher said. "The new Landsat 8 satellite, launched earlier this year, promises to capture even more beautiful and up-to-date imagery in the months and years ahead," he wrote.

Until then, you can check out the new Landsat 7-based satellite imagery by heading over to Google Maps and turning on satellite view, or by launching Google Earth and zooming out.

Also on the mapping front, Google this week updated its Google Earth apps for iOS and Android to include Street View. The mobile version of Google Earth is now available in more than 100 countries worldwide

Meanwhile, Nokia had some mapping news of its own this week. The company on Thursday announced it is updating its map site with revamped aerial images covering 90 per cent of the world.

Like Google, Nokia said that its new images won't include any cloud cover. The new imagery will also be available on Nokia smartphones later this year.