Better Looking Earth From Space and a New FlashEarth

Blue Marble in Google EarthThose of you who are regular readers of Google Earth Blog (GEB) know that I have been campaigning Google to create a better view of Earth from space. I really don’t like Google Earth’s default ugly-looking view of the Earth from space. Google could easily offer an option in the layers to allow a prettier view of the Earth to those of us who would prefer it. So, a few weeks ago I published an add-on called the Blue Marble (for GE 4) which is based on the beautiful NASA Blue Marble Next Generationa data – except, I brightened the NASA photo and increased its color saturation. My add-on lets you view the Blue Marble from space (it shows a view based on the current month), and when you get closer it will fade out letting you see the normal GE imagery. Ideally, higher-resolution versions of the Blue Marble would transition as you get closer, but I haven’t had the time to set up and process the imagery and KML.
Anyway, I just found out this week that Yahoo Maps now has an awesome high-quality aerial view of Earth, and they also use the Blue Marble NG. They transition to higher resolution data as you get closer and have a very high quality, carefully color balanced, dataset using another imagery set (I believe it is Landsat) when you zoom even closer. The work was done by i-cubed. Kudo’s to i-cubed for a great job! By the way, NASA’s free WorldWind virtual globe also uses Blue Marble data and looks better as a result.
I highly recommend checking out to compare the aerial photography of the top mapping tools out there (currently it allows you to compare: Google Maps, Microsoft Virtual Earth, Yahoo Maps,, OpenLayers, and NASA Terra). FlashEarth has a very smooth interface allowing you to use your mousewheel to zoom, and it also allows you to rotate the view by using the compass in the upper right (a feature most of the mapping tools don’t provide themselves for their data). Using FlashEarth, I think you will quickly agree that Yahoo Maps now has the best looking views of the Earth from space (from higher altitudes) verses all the other major players (Microsoft, Google, and Ask). And, unfortunately, Google Maps has the worst high altitude view IMHO. Of course, zoomed in close on a comparative basis world-wide, Google Maps/Earth will win 9 times out of 10 over any of the other players. Anyway, whoever has done FlashEarth – Great work!

About Frank Taylor

Frank Taylor started the Google Earth Blog in July, 2005 shortly after Google Earth was first released. He has worked with 3D computer graphics and VR for many years and was very impressed with this exciting product. Frank completed a 5.5 year circumnavigation of the earth by sailboat in June 2015 which you can read about at Tahina Expedition, and is a licensed pilot, backpacker, diver, and photographer.


  1. Yup I agree Yahoo looks best, i-cubed do great work, currently World Wind is let down by it’s Landsat layer, this is ony due to the fact that the free Landsat data available is of lower quality than that sold to companies. Maybe one day a big company will make a public domain Landsat layer aailable, I can dream 😉

  2. In the UK I find Virtual Earth usually has the best low-level imagery. Large parts of the UK don’t have ariel photography in GE/GM.

  3. Birdseed says:

    Actually, a fourth location I’ve lived in had Yahoo maps as the best. So there you go, Flash Earth is a brilliant app!

  4. Roger Leib says:

    Flash Earth Is Gone! They replaced it with totally horrible, cloud covered, unusable crap called “Zoom Earth”… They may as well have removed it completely.

    • johnny turbo says:

      All weathermaps upgrade is actually a DOWNgrade.
      We saw too much
      Today they limited the zoom out options on Flashearth AND on Wundermaps
      I see censorship in the weather images every day

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