Are Google Earth Images In Real-Time?

A look at Google Earth images

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Images on Google Earth are highly detailed but do not show imagery in real-time.

Google Earth

Many people according to Frank Taylor at his Google Earth Blog believe the images are in real time. He believes that is because of weather satellite photos that are a few hours old or because of live weather radar. He goes into detail how Google collects its images for Google Earth.

Taylor writes, "High resolution satellites (like those operated by DigitalGlobe) operate just a few hundred kilometers above the Earth. This means they only see a small part of the Earth with their camera as they orbit over."

"They typically go around the Earth every 90 minutes, but only cover about 1% of the Earth on each pass (you can see strips of imagery if you look at the imagery in Google Earth) – most of that is water."

One reason why the images are not in real time is that they must be processed by a commercial provider like DigitalGlobe before being passed on to Google. Goggle then compares the imagery to the current imagery to see if the new imagery is better than the current.

Taylor writes," Once an image is selected, it has to be processed into the format and coordinate system of Google Earth’s databases. Then it has to go through a quality control process and fed into a processing system before it gets distributed to the live Google Earth database servers."

Another reason there is not newer imagery according to Taylor is that it is expensive to purchase quality aerial imagery. Taylor points out that recent imagery is worth more than older imagery and companies do not want to have their newest imagery available for free on Google Earth. He says you cannot sell or use the imagery from Google Earth for business purposes without permission.

There is near real- time imagery of Earth available on Google Earth. Taylor writes," first there’s the new Clouds layer. Found under the new Weather layer folder. The clouds are actually taken from weather satellites and are a global picture of the clouds as recent as 3 hours old."

He also points to NASA. "NASA has a layer they call DailyPlanet which shows the entire Earth at a medium resolution (about 500 meter resolution per pixel). You can view DailyPlanet in Google Earth."

"Right now, this layer from NASA is the most recent, highest resolution imagery of the Earth continuously updating available to the general public."

Are Google Earth Images In Real-Time?
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  • iraj

    Io vorrei ringraziar La per la meravigliosa possibilita’ che ha messo alle disposizioni dei ricercatori del tutto il mondo …io come architetto e’ stato risolto moltissimi dei mie problemi con google earth …Grazie Grazie

  • Peggy

    You say Google earth is near real-time,within a few hours.

    I beg todiffer,Everytime I have brought my own piece of property up on google earth the pics I get are always the same picture….taken several years ago..or so it looks to me ….it’s always an old picture…my opinion…thanks

  • Deniz

    i dont think they’re in real time. whenever check my fav team’s stadium on istanbul – kadikoy area, it’s still showing the construction image which has end in 2004. or shall i ask, do the images recency changes due the locations ?

  • http://www.myvicinity.co.uk Guest

    We live in Spain near Alicante and have been here for 5.5  years. The images of our property are at least that old and probably older. In my opinion Google only updates the images where something ‘news worthy’ is happening, primarly weather.

    We have a new motorway just been built which has been added to the map overlay but you cannot see it on the satellite image. It is a shame because the system could be so useful but, as it is, it’s bordering on just ‘fun’ with little or no practical value.


  • http://www.canberracarltonblues.com Guest

    well, they certainly never use to be.  I checked out photos of a carpark near my work and there was a section that had been closed for around 6 months, but in the google earth shot you could clearly see cars still parked in the old section.


    • http://travel-guide2india.blogspot.com Tourism places in India- Famous places in India

      I agree that google earth images are real time as I checked my home while using Google earth.Furthermore if they were real time , the cars and other vehicles they show should be moving rather than static….

  • http://www.figbranch.com Figster

    I have looked my address up on google earth many times alway with the same car in the driveway. That car was sold over 6 years ago. No Certainly not in real time.

  • http://www.paktimes.com Guest

    The Images which are with the Google Earth are not the real time gerenated. These are old and some times they get around fresh images but not real.

  • Guest

    I used Google Earth Pro for a few years but had to cancel because the photos were so old. You expect more for $500 a year.

  • http://www.thundercats-the-movie.net Clare

    The images aren’t in real time, well they aren’t for my property anyway.

    I love Google Earth though, it’s pretty amazing! :-)

  • Dave from San Diego

    I live near Legoland’s theme park in sunny southern California. The Google earth images for this area are at least 4 years old as is does not reflect the construction of our municipal golf course and a host of commercial and residential development.  Either way, Google earth still rocks.

  • Guest

    I have looked up our address and I use to get a picture that wasn’t focused. Now I can see our house clearly and everything around us.  I have only been using GE for a year or so.


  • Ralph

    First of all Sattelites don’t orbit the Earth, they are put into orbit but when they are put there they stay pretty well stationery so they only see the same thing all the time. They are truly traveling at grreat speeds but only because they are going the same speed as the Earth turns. So they cannot view water unless they are over water or they have a camera that rotates back and forth. Otherwise they only see the same thing day in day out.  That’s my story and I’m stiching to it.


    • Guest

      Sir-  You are desc ribing a geostationary satellite such as a communication or weather satellite.

      Imageing satellites do move relative to the earth surface and are usually in polar orbits.


      • Guest

        Actually, you are both wrong.  Imaging satellites are in a sun-synchronous orbit.  This is so that the earth below the satellite is always in the sunlight.  Typically, the satellite is taking pictures at around 10:00am – 11:00am local time.

        It is possible to have a polar sun-synchronous orbit, but this is not the case with commercial imaging satellites.

  • http://www.lilimay.com Klyve

    I can’t see that it’s realtime where I am, it still shows our house with a bouncy castle in the garden and that was on one day in April this year.

  • Ant

    The images aren’t real-time images. It’s impossible for all the earth, but ( relatively) possible for some points. Some satellites are moving in orbits around the earth, others are stopped above a chosen point. And so, you consider the delay time of the transmitions from the satellite to earth and in the internet traffic. But,  there are no suficient satellites for all and the images processing demand is so great, not operational and not commercial.

    Other problem we encounter is the poor quality of a great number of  images, specially the low population density parts.

    • Guest

      Other problem we encounter is poor english of your latin types.  stick to spanish forum amigo.

  • http://www.piticstyle.com PiticStyle

    The pictures is in not real time. I have an example, in my town we have a stadium and if I search it with Google Earth I see the picture with the stadium from 3 years ago, in the present the stadium have another color and is renovate!


    I have checked google earth regulary over the last few years. In my home city we have had major road and landscape changes some 5  years ago but Google still shows original views. However I have noticed some changes on other worldwide locations.

  • http://rehcs.inmarket.biz/ Rehcs

    Just paint HELLO GOOGLE at your roof.


    When you see this words in a GEarth you’ll know they watching you!

  • Guest

    What can I do find out how old is the picture taken? Is there an option in the google earth that lets me know the date of the frame i’m watching?? Thanks

    • http://www.digitalglobe.com Hugo

      You can find out how old the images in Google Earth as long as they are images provided by DigitalGlobe.  To do so open your Google Earth apps, and in the layers section scroll down to the bottom.  The very last check box says something like ‘DG’ layer or something like that.  If you check it of, squares will appear on your map (make sure you zoom out).  Each square will contain a date when the image was taken.

  • Guest

    is there any way one can help me to view what happened in my house from friday to sunday.

    this will elp find a killer.

    • TERRY O


  • Guest

    i moved over 3 years ago into my brand new home and i went to look at my house and the map still shows fields where my house is , that is a long time period to not get images 

  • Steven

    Is it possible to update the weather radar manually,it seems mine has been stuck at 5/11 for days?

    • Guest

      Hi Steven, I’m glad to see I’m not the only one facing this issue since exactly the same day. I’ve been deinstalling reinstalling the damn thing many times and problem hasn’t been solved to date. Funningly enough, images are updated normally on my laptop at work, same version, same OS. I’m clueless and it’s frustrating. Have you by any chance found a way to get around this? I suspect the cache to be causing something though…

      • Steven

        Hello Fellow Google Earther,

            I also  have tried everything,searched high and low,installed and uninstalled ,posted and e-mailed and actually when I looked at the dates on this page I never thought I’d get a reply.No,still haven’t found a solution,maybe Weather Channel didn’t pay their satellite bill?If I do find something I will post back here.The program has some great features,looking around I found some great add-ons,one was another weather device,lost it when I uninstalled,I think they were at Lifehacker or Google Earth Blog,check them out!

                        Good Luck ,



        • Franck

          Hi Steven,

          Thanks for your reply. Actually, I have an interesting update. I brought my laptop home from work to doublecheck whether the problem was with my PC. When I connected the laptop to my modem, GE loaded the exact same old radar image I’ve been stuck with since 05/11! So the problem isn’t with GE itself and it’s not with weather.com either since the latest images load perfectly at work. My conclusion (which is not the most pleasant one to be honest) is that there is a cache problem with our respective ISP or with maybe one of weather.com’s servers!!! The old image may just be stuck in a cache somewhere. Now, tell me how to solve this unless it just resolves on its own.

          Let’s keep each other posted ;)


          • Franck

            Hi Steven,

            It’s me again. You oughta check it out. Mine has just updated. As predicted, problem got solved on its own… for now. Let me know how yours does.



          • Steven

            Hi Frank,

             I  just checked and was so happy to find it had  updated,I couldn’t wait to get on to tell you– but you beat me to it!The whole thing is totally amazing and it was a big help to have you post about the same problem,I started to think I was doing something wrong.(but now nosy me  would like to know what caused the problem)Now I have to play with the Vista SP1 update and Microsoft,there is so much to learn,maybe old dogs can learn some new tricks?Thanks so much for the  help and replies,have a great day,Keep On Googling!

            With Thanks,




          • Franck

            We’re all happy bunnies now and can finally concentrate on other things.

            Take care


          • Franck

            Hi Steven,

            Unfortunately, I fear that mine has stopped updating since 05/16 23.45 UTC once again. What a pain! Is yours still ok?



          • Steven

            Hi Frank,

            Yes ,same problem here ,stuck at 5/16,23.45UTC!I was off line for a while,my brand new Dell with Vista had to be totally Re-Installed(4 hours on the phone),now they tell me it was partly  my problem because I tried to Auto Update the SP-1 that they put in Auto Update,well at least it’s back  up and  working again,more than I can say for the Weather  Radar!You said something about ISP’s ,I’m 20 miles north-west  of NYC so I don’t know if we have the same server,this is odd because the cloud cover updates continually!Well its not all bad ,I  got to meet a thoughtfull and helpfull fellow Googler,keep in touch,any info is appreciated so I don’t think its me or my computer,I’m just a novice and trying to learn more by the day!As a matter of fact ,I’m glad the anti-spam Math questions are that simple!

            Thanks again,

            Have a Great Day,


          • Franck

            Hi Steven,

            Vista… I’m better off sticking to my "old" XP :). I don’t think it’s about your computer. Mine just stopped updating overnight, without doing anything unusual! I just think we’re two folks out of luck with this stupid radar, one in the US and one in France! I’m just assuming our Internet Service Provider might have a troublesome caching system with this info or we’re connected to a lousy server at weather.com. These are assumptions but nothing to help me work it out on my own really… So I just picked another add-on that works just fine. It’s available at www.meteox.com. You might just want to get yourself one for the US that runs smoothly as you suggested previously. It’s the only satisfactory alternative I’ve found! Best of luck.


          • Guest

            I’m in the UK and my radar images are stuck at th e same time.  Anyone from Google Earth listening????

          • Franck

            Welcome my unlucky Google Earth friend! They’ve let us down at Googleplex…

          • Steven

            Hey Frank,

              I have been having trouble with Vista and  Dell(the problem is fixed I hope and Vista is pretty cool)   so I wasn’t keeping track of our weather problem,got on tonight and it updated finally!Its like a game now,I log on to Earth just to see if Weather.com  is doing their job and then here to see if you are doing yours!France eh,you lucky son of a gun,sample some of those grapes for me!Hello England the problem spreads,so now we have three Google Weather Update Watchers,a new club.I guess its going to be  every 3 days or so,hey Google   ,if you don’t want to get egged like Micro’s Balmer,get off of your updaters and keep  this thing moving!



          • Steven

            HI Frank,

             We must have ruffled some feathers,the the weather radar  is now  updating every few hours ,faster then the cloud cover.Maybe we should keep complaining and they will have real-time weather soon!As a matter of fact I looked back at the story for this thread and saw that some people wondered  if  the  regular  Google Earth was real time ,like Bush’s "Terror" Police would ever allow that?Keep checking ,hope things are OK with you.


          • Franck

            Hi there Steven,

            As a matter of fact, mine is also working like a charm for now. I made the google radar overlap my alternative radar images so that I’ll immediately notice when it fails to update. Both have been matching for 24 hrs so I keep my fingers crossed. As for sampling some grapes, this is what I just did today in the Champagne region to get a few boxes for my wedding :) I’ll crack a bottle to celebrate the radar being back in business! I may be lucky for grapes but you’re luckier with thunderstorms. My future wife & I are Tstorm heads and we hope to be able to come to the US for some exciting chases. Thanks for your communication.

            Take care


          • Jana

            Unfortunately, whatever caused the problem, seems like it has not been resolved yet. I

          • JOHN B

            I commented last year and soon after everything was fixed.
            Now neither the clouds or the radar are updating on the screen although in the information details the radar times are up to date and the clouds are stuck days ago!!!!!

          • jOHN

            At last the weather is back up and running in the UK!!!!

          • JOHN B

            Its stuck again – what is all this crap about radar is days out of date – is nobody listening!!!!!!!

          • TERRY O

            HEY ALL..


            ANY IDEAS?

          • Louis

            my grand parents haven’t lived in there house for 15 years yet when i look on google earth i still see there old bronco sitting is the drivway how stupid is that hey.

    • Guest 11

      At least it isn’t stuck on 9/11 and thank lord have mercy on us all for that!

  • http://www.yourparkingsucks.us Guest

    These satellite images couldn’t possibly be in real time.  The amount of bandwidth and equipment needed to pull something like that off would cost astronomical amounts of money at this point in time!  There are only a handful of satellites taking pictures at any given moment in time at any given place on earth.  And the process is pretty slow, in fact, there are many many places that still don’t have high resolution imagery due to the fact that only so many pictures can be taken in a short amount of time.  In the future something like that will be possible, but probably not the near future.

  • Guest

    I viewed GE several a couple years ago….there was my property…so cool!  I had a big building constructed recently, and one day I  went on GE and saw it!  It was very nice to see updated pics!  So, I go on GE now, and the OLD IMAGE is back….new building is NOT there!  WTF??  Any ideas?


    • Guest

      there is a truck that drives around taking the pics. you can see the shadow on many images

  • Jchang

    What’s the point of all this sophisticated technology and all the hoopla surrounding it when the images are a few years old, and of no use to the general public?? I would have liked to be able to monitor my investment property, for example, by logging on to GE.
    How about making GE more functional, Larry and Serge???

    • Guest

      If you want to monitor your investment property maybe you should do it yourself. Google Earth is not your personal spy cam, buddy.

  • Runnynoze

    If you will notice, there can be no winter images in the northern lattitudes. The reasons are obvious.

  • Yahyah Jalaal

    Images are of Nov 2006. How can I see latest images. If not atleast 6 months old. Please do keep updating.

  • Guest

    does anyone know if there is a technology out there that is capable of archiving its satellite photos of a any given city. for example, if someone wanted to view a specific street on a specific time and date at any point in the past. ie, could i view 5th and broadway, nyc at 1pm on december 10th? is that type of technology available??

  • Guest

    Does anyone understand the national security risk of having a widely available real time imaging program. Sorry folks, you need NSA clearance to see actual photos in real time. I live in a big, very-well populated city and the pistures I get are at least 2-3 years old. If you think you are seeing up to date pictures, you need to change some things up because you are becoming the very definition of plane-jane. It’s not that the images are up to date, its that you haven’t changed anything for so long old pics just look new.

    • Guest

      Yeah here too 3 years old pictures at least
      Pitty i’d love to take a look on the roads to see if its buisy
      But nasty too if you say your not at a friend
      And your gf can see your car parked in front of a friends house haha

    • Guest

      You are such an idiot its actually quite funny!

  • LiverBoy

    To those complaining about how “not fast enough” Google is updating its database, don’t forget that:

    1- it’s free! Take it or leave it! They’ve updated my parent’s house twice in the past 5 years, and the picture of my house is 2 years old (well, there was no house back then but my neighbours’ was built).

    2- Don’t forget, you need the satellite to have a very clear picture, that means no clouds on your specific spot, and on a bright and sunny day.

    3- If, like the article said, the company taking the picture won’t release them to Google and others, what can Google do? Not much except waiting.

    4- GoogleEarth is more like a cool feature, a toy, not a professional application. If you have needs that require an always up-to-date picture, you can always start paying. I’m sure that no matter how rich Google is, they can’t afford to buy pictures every year for the entire planet!

    5- Many parts of the world are not yet covered by high definitions pictures. Adding a city instead of updating one makes more business sense for Google.

  • Guest

    How can i view the nasa layer in the google earth, that is stated on the body of the text above? And does it say how old is the picture?


  • Jeff

    Google Earth is free, it’s awesome and I love it. Who cares if it’s real time, are you spying on people or something? I am intrigued by all the cool facts, the ability to plan a trip and find an out of the way restaurant, the pics that people upload and everything else you won’t find on a Rand McNally atlas. I planned the entire route for our motorcycle trip to Alaska last year without using a paper map. I love the fact that I can use the GPS coordinates to plan an off road trip for hundreds of miles on dirt roads that you wont even find on a Forest Service map. Google Earth is an awesome resource and it’s free.

    P.S. did I mention that it’s still FREE!!!

  • Tom

    Looking to buy a house in Denver and wanted to see an aerial view from Google maps. Not only was the house not there, the entire subdivision was not there. It is located very near a lake so I have good reference points as to where the address should be. No only is Google earth not real time, it is perhaps YEARS old in a major metropolitan city–at least for some areas.

  • Wyatt

    Cirque Du Soleil is in town, therefore is their unmistakable tent. If you look on Google Earth in Denver, there is no tent (which would be placed adjacent to the Pepsi Center.) which has been here for more than two weeks.

  • Abhijith

    I am sorry to say Whats is subject. …!!

    I am from India, and i have been exploring google earth past many years and observed that they do not have atleast 3 years back snaps ,
    Its has very old databases , only the metro cities of the country are updated regularly , google earth shows my city’s ( where i live in ) past 4 or 5 year old snaps , why is it ?? Only develped country’s database are regularly updated ……….

    • I’m Just Sayin’ …

      I agree with your complaint, but must say — I live in a medium-sized U.S. city (arguably developed!) and our Google Earth images haven’t been updated in more than SEVEN YEARS. So don’t feel too slighted!

  • Eric

    Ge maybe a few years old but the realtime tracking is working very well.
    As long as you know were you are and were to go I can wait for the GE guys to do an update.

  • Guest

    Its over 10 years old in most regional places in Australia. I know this because of structures that have been around for at least 10 years are under construction in my town and my parents place still has old owners.

  • I dont care


  • syed

    hai my name is syed,when ever i see google earth i see all old pictures of my land and my area.so,plz.. update the images of google earth.thanks

  • Guest

    I would like to see Sondu and Nyabondo plateau real time

  • Lijo

    For the past couple of years I’m using Google Earth. One thing which I noted in my home town of GE is my city’s river is always flooded but the fact is that my city’s river was not flooded in the past three years(oh). No room for talk about real-time images.

  • Kevin marrs

    It appears that when I use google earth the data is “a year” or so old. Is this normal or is that just the free version issue

  • Jessica

    There’s no way it’s real time. I’m looking at my neighborhood and see cars and decorations that aren’t here anymore, i.e. they’ve moved away. Unless I’m not using a feature of some sort to get real time, it’s definately not. Which sucks; that would be awesome :)

  • rosker

    I agree with Peggy. I just checked out a friend’s address and the vehicle in the photo is not one that she currently has, but one that she had several months ago.

  • Guest

    I reroofed my house from red to gray a year ago. The pictures still show red.

  • Cameron

    Well if Google Earth were in real time, the pool I took down two years ago would be gone…

    Also, there would be snow on the ground.

  • needhelp

    Hi there; thanks for writting this great article;
    However I have to ask something to get the real picture;
    If I use google earth for example will it be possible to have pictures of a particular location taken specifically on December 2008 let’s say ? and after that each month maybe a new picture ?
    According with this article, probably not;
    But, how about using the PRO version ? the one you can pay for ? does this provide such a facility ?

  • Red

    Over the past couple of years. Everytime I check the locations of my house, office, friends and family… the photos are 1 to 2 years old!

  • Patrick

    oh please, for the last 2 years when i look at the same 20 properties, the same cars are parked there from years earlier. I lived in one place 10 years, and it never showed my 2 vehicles there, but rather some older car that hadnt live there for years. I swear some images are many years old.

  • AKspirit

    Indeed. The photos of my house in Anchorage, AK have not changed in about 7-6 years! You can tell because the canvas cover on the top of my boat is red on GoogleEarth, but a new blue one was but on in 2003/2004. Also, Anchorage has grown a lot in the last 5 years with many new and large roads. You would think that maybe every 5 years or so they would at least update cities to show new roads, buildings, city-wide improvements, ect…

  • Hesam

    You are very bad!

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