Google Earth facts for kids

Kids Encyclopedia Facts
Google Earth
Google Earth running on Android

Google Earth is a virtual globe program that was first called Earth Viewer and was created by Keyhole, Inc. It maps the surface of the earth by combining pictures taken by satellites and airplanes. There are also three-dimensional maps where you can look at the area from different angles. It is kind of like Google Maps.

Google Earth is interactive, and lets the user direct the whole globe, look at satellite imagery with overlays of roads, buildings, geographic features, and more.

Teachers can use it to evaluate and strengthen students' visual literacy. Students can use it to develop a background for three-dimensional and cultural differences globally.


Google Earth's imagery is displayed on a digital globe, which displays the planet's surface using a single composited image from a far distance. After zooming in far enough, the imagery transitions into different imagery of the same area with finer detail, which varies in date and time from one area to the next. The imagery is retrieved from satellites or aircraft. Before the launch of NASA and the USGS's Landsat 8 satellite, Google relied partially on imagery from Landsat 7, which suffered from a hardware malfunction that left diagonal gaps in images. In 2013, Google used datamining to remedy the issue, providing what was described as a successor to the Blue Marble image of Earth, with a single large image of the entire planet. This was achieved by combining multiple sets of imagery taken from Landsat 7 to eliminate clouds and diagonal gaps, creating a single "mosaic" image. Google now uses Landsat 8 to provide imagery in a higher quality and with greater frequency. Imagery is hosted on Google's servers, which are contacted by the application when opened, requiring an Internet connection.

Imagery resolution ranges from 15 meters of resolution to 15 centimeters. For much of the Earth, Google Earth uses digital elevation model data collected by NASA's Shuttle Radar Topography Mission. This creates the impression of three-dimensional terrain, even where the imagery is only two-dimensional.

Every image created from Google Earth using satellite data provided by Google Earth is a copyrighted map. Any derivative from Google Earth is made from copyrighted data which, under United States Copyright Law, may not be used except under the licenses Google provides. Google allows non-commercial personal use of the images (e.g. on a personal website or blog) as long as copyrights and attributions are preserved. By contrast, images created with NASA's globe software World Wind use The Blue Marble, Landsat, or USGS imagery, each of which is in the public domain.

In version 5.0, Google introduced Historical Imagery, allowing users to view earlier imagery. Clicking the clock icon in the toolbar opens a time slider, which marks the time of available imagery from the past. This feature allows for observation of an area's changes over time.

3D imagery

3D locations in Google Earth
Countries with 3D coverage in Google Earth as of January 2018

Google Earth shows 3D building models in some cities, including photorealistic 3D imagery. The first 3D buildings in Google Earth were created using 3D modeling applications such as SketchUp and, beginning in 2009, Building Maker, and were uploaded to Google Earth via the 3D Warehouse. In June 2012, Google announced that it would be replacing user-generated 3D buildings with an auto-generated 3D mesh. This would be phased in, starting with select larger cities, with the notable exception of cities such as London and Toronto which required more time to process detailed imagery of their vast number of buildings. The reason given is to have greater uniformity in 3D buildings, and to compete with Nokia Here and Apple Maps, which were already using this technology. The coverage began that year in 21 cities in four countries. By early 2016, 3D imagery had been expanded to hundreds of cities in over 40 countries, including every U.S. state and encompassing every continent except Antarctica.

In 2009, in a collaboration between Google and the Museo del Prado in Madrid, the museum selected 14 of its paintings to be photographed and displayed at the resolution of 14,000 megapixels inside the 3D version of the Prado in Google Earth and Google Maps.

Street View

On April 15, 2008, with version 4.3, Google fully integrated Street View into Google Earth. Street View displays 360° panoramic street-level photos of select cities and their surroundings. The photos were taken by cameras mounted on automobiles, can be viewed at different scales and from many angles, and are navigable by arrow icons imposed on them.

Water and ocean

Introduced in Google Earth 5.0 in 2009, the Google Ocean feature allows users to zoom below the surface of the ocean and view the 3D bathymetry. Supporting over 20 content layers, it contains information from leading scientists and oceanographers. On April 14, 2009, Google added underwater terrain data for the Great Lakes.

In June 2011, Google increased the resolution of some deep ocean floor areas from 1-kilometer grids to 100 meters. The high-resolution features were developed by oceanographers at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory from scientific data collected on research cruises. The sharper focus is available for about 5 percent of the oceans. This can be seen in the Hudson off New York City, the Wini Seamount near Hawaii, and the Mendocino Ridge off the U.S Pacific coast.

Outer space

Google Earth Mars
A picture of Mars' landscape
Google Earth Sky
Google Earth in Sky Viewing Mode
Google moon 1
One of the lunar landers viewed in Google Moon

Google Earth can be used as a program to view outer space, including the surfaces of various objects in the solar system. Google has programs and features, including within Google Earth, allowing exploration of Mars, the moon, and the view of the sky from Earth.

Google Sky

Google Sky is a feature that was introduced in Google Earth 4.2 on August 22, 2007, in a browser-based application on March 13, 2008, and to Android smartphones, with augmented reality features. Google Sky allows users to view stars and other celestial bodies. It was produced by Google through a partnership with the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, the science operations center for the Hubble Space Telescope. Dr. Alberto Conti and his co-developer Dr. Carol Christian of STScI plan to add the public images from 2007, as well as color images of all of the archived data from Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys. Newly released Hubble pictures will be added to the Google Sky program as soon as they are issued.

New features such as multi-wavelength data, positions of major satellites and their orbits as well as educational resources will be provided to the Google Earth community and also through Christian and Conti's website for Sky. Also visible on Sky mode are constellations, stars, galaxies, and animations depicting the planets in their orbits. A real-time Google Sky mashup of recent astronomical transients, using the VOEvent protocol, is being provided by the VOEventNet collaboration. Other programs similar to Google Sky include Microsoft WorldWide Telescope and Stellarium.

Google Mars

Google Mars is an application within Google Earth that is a version of the program for imagery of the planet Mars. Google also operates a browser-based version, although the maps are of a much higher resolution within Google Earth, and include 3D terrain, as well as infrared imagery and elevation data. There are also some extremely-high-resolution images from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter's HiRISE camera that are of a similar resolution to those of the cities on Earth. Finally, there are many high-resolution panoramic images from various Mars landers, such as the Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, that can be viewed in a similar way to Google Street View.

Mars also has a small application found near the face on Mars. It is called Meliza, a robot character the user can speak with.

Google Moon

Originally a browser application, Google Moon is a feature that allows exploration of the moon. Google brought the feature to Google Earth for the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission on July 20, 2009. It was announced and demonstrated to a group of invited guests by Google along with Buzz Aldrin at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. Google Moon includes several tours, including one for the Apollo missions, incorporating maps, videos, and Street View-style panoramas, all provided by NASA.

Other features

Google Earth has numerous features which allow the user to learn about specific places. These are called "layers", and include different forms of media, including photo and video. Some layers include tours, which guide the user between specific places in a set order. Layers are created using the Keyhole Markup Language, or KML, which users can also use to create customized layers. Locations can be marked with placemarks and organized in folders; For example, a user can use placemarks to list interesting landmarks around the globe, then provide a description with photos and videos, which can be viewed by clicking on the placemarks while viewing the new layer in the application.

In December 2006, Google Earth added a new integration with Wikipedia and Panoramio. For the Wikipedia layer, entries are scraped for coordinates via the Template:Srlink. There is also a community-layer from the project Wikipedia-World. More coordinates are used, different types are in the display, and different languages are supported than the built-in Wikipedia layer. The Panoramio layer features pictures uploaded by Panoramio users, placed in Google Earth based off user-provided location data. In addition to flat images, Google Earth also includes a layer for user-submitted panoramic photos, navigable in a similar way to Street View.

Google Earth includes multiple features that allow the user to monitor current events. In 2007, Google began offering users the ability to monitor traffic data provided by Google Traffic in real time, based on information crowdsourced from the GPS-identified locations of cell phone users.

Images for kids

Google Earth Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.