Google Earth Gets NASA Layer

    July 20, 2007

Google Earth has just released a new layer, and within it, there are three different parts.  Each comes courtesy of NASA, and they’re called Astronaut Photography of Earth, Satellite Imagery, and Earth City Lights.

Those names are pretty self-explanatory, though Wei Luo, a senior GIS specialist, offers details on the Google LatLong Blog.  Most interesting (to me) was the coverage of Earth City Lights: “‘Earth City Lights’ offers a new perspective on this popular image.  One can identify some interesting urbanization patterns around the globe.”

The LatLong Blog goes on to describe some of light patterns, and so does a post on NASA’s Visible Earth site: “The brightest areas of the Earth are the most urbanized, but not necessarily the most populated.  (Compare western Europe with China and India.)  Cities tend to grow along coastlines and transportation networks.  Even without the underlying map, the outlines of many continents would still be visible.

“Even more than 100 years after the invention of the electric light, some regions remain thinly populated and unlit,” the account continues.  “Antarctica is entirely dark.  The interior jungles of Africa and South America are mostly dark, but lights are beginning to appear there.  Deserts in Africa, Arabia, Australia, Mongolia, and the United States are poorly lit as well (except along the coast), along with the boreal forests of Canada and Russia, and the great mountains of the Himalaya.”

There’s definitely a lot of interesting stuff in this new NASA layer.  Hat tip to Ionut Alex Chitu of Google Operating System.