GeoEye-1 imaging satellite to launch in August, Google Earth gets ready for its close-up

Good news for Google Earth gazers: Those images are about to get a whole lot sharper. A new satellite named GeoEye-1 will be lifted into geosynchronous low earth orbit on August 22, and will deliver peeps at double the sharpness of Google Earth’s typical 3-foot resolution. The bird, which is basically an ultra high-resolution digital camera with a huge telescope attached, will be able to deliver clear views of objects measuring just 20 inches across.

The satellite will be able to resolve even sharper images than that, down to 16 inches, but the government won’t let us see those pics for security reasons. We’re thinking it might be able to see even smaller objects, but they’re just not telling us. Even so, this resolution is fine enough to see the shapes of people, but maybe not sharp enough to read license plates. Hit continue to see an example of GeoEye-1’s .5-meter pics.

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Better yet, this GeoEye-1 is such a fast picture taker that it can snap these high-rez shots of an area the size on Texas in one day. This means that soon, the entire Earth will be visible online in much higher resolution, available for free to the general public. While it won’t match some of Google Earth’s 6-inch resolution imagery seen in a scant few areas such as the Google campus, it’ll still be a noticeable improvement over what we have now. It's yeat another example of space science benefiting us all.

Via Technology Review