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UW space science technology powers Google Earth images

December 12, 2007 By Jennifer O'Leary

Satellite images provide a dramatic view of the Earth and its atmosphere. For timely views of winter weather in Wisconsin or wild fires in California, Google Earth users can now access the most recent high-quality satellite images generated at the Space Science and Engineering Center (SSEC).

Unlike other satellite images accessible in the Google Earth interface, the center’s images show the natural colors of the Earth’s surface, and are available less than one hour after receiving the data from the satellite instrumentation. The images are made possible by the antenna on the SSEC building’s rooftop — widely recognized on the Madison skyline — which looks like a giant golf ball.

SSEC has two types of satellite images formatted for use in Google Earth: High-resolution images of the United States and coarser resolution images that cover more of the globe. Using the Google Earth interface, users see the latest satellite views of the Rockies before a skiing trip or of the latest storm brewing over the ocean.

Available as a free download from Google, Google Earth is a powerful, interactive tool that allows users to access a wealth of geographic information and imagery from a personal computer.

To access SSEC’s data in Google Earth, simply click on either the file for the United States or the file for the global images and Google Earth will open automatically.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) provides support for the acquisition and processing of the global data set used in these images.