Have you taken a look at the terrain view in Google Maps recently? It's prettier than ever, with updated imagery from the USGS Landsat 8 satellite showing truer colours and more detail, with a new algorithm searching through a petabyte — 1000 terabytes, 1,000,000 gigabytes — of imaging data for cloud-free photos.
Google announced the news on its Lat Long blog for Maps today, saying it's the biggest update since the 2013 Landsat 7 imaging database crawl that eliminated clouds from even tropical regions that are always partly cloudy. The difference is clear — Maps photos already looked good, now they look great.
While those previous 2013 images were a massive update from the relatively low-res data that came before it, the Landsat 7 satellite suffered a scan-line corrector failure that meant that large diagonal swathes of images had to be filled in with interpolated data, lowering the overall effective image detail. The recent update will progressively fix that for Google's satellite imagery around the world.
The Maps update means you can jump into Google Earth and see stunning landscapes like Swiss Alps, above, with new data already being available in several regions around the world, and new areas progressively being added. You can also view it in Google Maps on desktop or mobile — all you need to do is enable the satellite terrain layer to see the new imagery. [Google Maps Blog]