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Check out Google Earth’s amazing new satellite imagery from Landsat 8

Earlier this week, Google announced that it upgraded the satellite imagery on Google Maps and Google Earth with data collected from Landsat 8. With finer detail, more accurate colors, and a faster rate of capture, these new images from the US government make Google’s consumer-facing services better than ever.

If you want to experience the new imagery yourself, simply load up Google Earth or Google Maps on your platform of choice. Mountain View has already integrated the new satellite data from NASA and the US Geological Survey, so the company’s apps and websites are better than ever.

Of course, the Landsat 8 satellite is only one of many sources of imagery for Google’s satellite view. Depending on where you look, and how zoomed in you are, Google will show you images sourced from the US Navy, the General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans, NOAA, DigitalGlobe, Astrium, and more.

If you only want to see images provided by Landsat, you can head over to the LandsatLook Viewer, and scrub through over forty years worth of visual data of the earth.

As aesthetically pleasing as the top-down view of our planet is, there’s a lot more going on here than simply admiring our beautiful world. Since 1972, the various incarnations of Landsat have been keeping a watchful eye on our planet, and providing scientists with vital information on how the world is changing.

We use Landsat data (in both the visible and IR spectrum) to monitor forests, farmland, the expansion of cities, and even the melting of the polar ice caps. And the best part? The data is completely free for everyone to access and analyze.

Landsat 7 launched in April 1999, and provided us an excellent view of the earth until a component failed in 2003 that caused a substantial striping effect over the image. It was still capable of capturing roughly three quarters of the data, but the gaps required multiple images to be merged together to see a complete scene.

When Landsat 8 came online in 2013, it offered a number of improvements beyond stripe-free footage. The new sensors are sensitive to two additional spectral bands that are used to monitor costal zones and cirrus clouds. And with the move to “push-broom” sensors, the overall sensitivity is enhanced. It’s not a paradigm shift, but the improvements give us an even better understanding of what’s going on in every part of the globe.

To celebrate the addition of the Landsat 8 data being added to Google’s products, we spent some time looking at some of the most beautiful places on earth. In the slideshow above, you’ll find ten of our favorite screenshots from the Google Earth app on iOS. If you have your own favorites, feel free to share them with us in the comment section below.

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