Beautiful Blue Marble and Clouds Add-on for Google Earth

Blue Marble and clouds in Google EarthProbably my oldest and most-wanted feature-request for Google Earth has been to show NASA’s beautiful Blue Marble images for the Earth when zoomed out. Several months ago I actually went to the trouble of figuring out a way to do it using network links which would be elegant to use. I asked Barry Hunter, who has implemented lots of interesting “add-ons” for Google Earth at his Nearby web site, to help implement a solution. Unfortunately we ran into a couple of problems at the time and never published it. Plus, I was told by some of the GE team members they would “probably” implement something themselves. So we’ve been waiting. Well, nothing from Google yet, so now we’re releasing a working version of our concept. And, it works even better than we expected!
Basically, all you have to do is load this Blue Marble and Clouds network link . It loads up NASA’s Blue Marble NG image for November and the current global clouds. When you zoom down to look at the Earth more closely, the clouds and BMNG image fade away. When you zoom back up, they come back. This is the kind of thing Google should implement built-in to GE. And, thanks to the availability of BMNG images for each month of the year, they could show the right image for each month of the year. By the way, you can turn off the clouds or the BMNG image overlay if you want and just use one or the other and it all still works. I like the BMNG image by itself.


This was done by using a network link to let a program at Barry’s server know what the current altitude of the view is. When you zoom down it adjusts the transparency of the clouds and BMNG images. It actually works very well. But, this is still an experimental program. Hopefully, Google will implement something equivalent or better. And, by the way, Microsoft’s VE 3D and NASA’s World Wind both use better global images when zoomed out. Leave a comment here if you think this is something Google should implement. By the way, the global clouds are updated every three hours automatically. You can read about the clouds here. And here’s the location of NASA’s Blue Marble images.
By the way, this project led me to my recently released time animation for Blue Marble in GE.

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Comments

  1. Hell yeah Google should implement this – it is awesome!

  2. Jimmy Lemon says:

    WOW! thats amazing. Wish my pc would be a bit smoother with it open :( guess I need to format again! Nice work though Frank (and co.)

  3. I was going to suggest something, but I see you’ve already done it. The cloud layer has an elevation, so if you’re viewing from ground level, and tilt to see the horizon and sky, reasonably correct clouds appear overhead. Very cool!

  4. Makes the earth even more beautiful with this image. Good job!
    Since the resolution of the image you’re using isn’t very high, I would put the fading zone higher (let say 2500 km instead of 1250 km) and the transition fading altitude region a little longer.
    Anyway, I really like the fact that you have a different map for each month!!
    Thanks.
    P-Y

  5. This is great! My computer monitor turns black for 4-6 seconds when I zoom in, though. Any idea why? It never does this without the BM or cloud imagery. Any plans to use the hi-res BM imagery?

  6. Wow, impressive layers. Really amazing. :)
    I see problems however…
    According to wikipedia, the elevation used in the clouds layer is far too high. A value of 16.000feet~5.000m would be much more appropiate for realism. But then of course, the clouds would not disappear until you have zoomed much more, which is an inconvenience.
    The problem could be solved if the layer came built-in with google earth, so that the layer could fade off at a certain altitude, but at the same time should be seen at a correct altitude when seen from below.
    It would really be great for GE to implement other features such as day/night layer and having an actual sun in real time position (which together with atmospheric effects could enable you to see sunsets and sunrises, such as this [ http://www.3d-saver.com/images/earth_shot2.jpg ] from 3D Earth screensaver) and moon.

  7. Pak, the cloud elevation is purposely exaggerated. But not so it disappears. That is done by our network link and a back-end application. No, we just like the look when you put the clouds up higher. Give it more of a 3D feeling.
    There is a cool 3D Global Clouds file you can load which lets you select the height very easily with GE 4. Here’s the new GE file:
    http://bbs.keyhole.com/ubb/download.php?Number=668534

  8. Oh I see! and also transparency of the “Blue Marble” layer is reduced as you zoom in!
    Its a shame that the transparency of the layer is only updated when you “stop” zooming (i.e. it does not change as you zoom in, giving “continuity” to the image, which is why I didn’t notice at first. Although I guess that would be too resource consuming for older computers)
    Anyway, Great work, it is exactly how GE should implement it by default :)
    I’m recommending this layer to my friends.

  9. John Chesterton says:

    This is excellent. I do think that the Blue marble layer should fade out at a higher altitude, maybe even 5000m. I would like to keep this always turned on in my places but as it is i have turned it off as I find the resolution is too low for me less than 5000m. Maybe a couple of options could be given?
    Enough said. This is a great release Frank!

  10. Of course Google should implement something like this. I like the suggestion of putting clouds at the “correct” altitude but also like the 3D feel of putting them way too high. Perhaps a hybrid? Put them artificially high when zommed out beyond the clouds so you look at the earth from spae, fade them out of view when your within a certain height around cloud cover and put them in again when you’re near the surface, but then at the correct height so we get a more accurate view of the clouds as seen from the surface. I like the idea of sun/moon simulation a lot too. Guess I definate would need new hardware then though. ;-)

  11. John Chesterton and others, you can adjust the ‘heights’ used in calculating when to fade in/out by editing the properties of the innermost Network Link. (Right click it, select Properties, and edit the Numbers at the end of the URL)
    - note however this is still experimental so the settings wont persist forever in your ‘My Places’ – if need-be we intend to have a page to create ‘my earth’ where you can customise the parameters to your hearts content!

  12. For users of the latest v4 Beta, within 24 hours you should silently upgrade to the better performing version (calculations done locally) created by Frank :), see:
    http://www.gearthblog.com/blog/archives/2006/11/new_blue_marble_addo.html

  13. software reviews says:

    I find the resolution is too low for me less than 5000m. Maybe a couple of options could be given?
    Enough said. This is a great release Frank!

  14. Apteka internetowa says:

    Thanks for very interesting article.

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