Satellite launches for Google hi-res imaging; can we track humans by shadows?


46 Responses to “Satellite launches for Google hi-res imaging; can we track humans by shadows?”

  1. Jake0748 says:

    Zebra @34 – Once its in it’s final orbit you should be able to find out at

    Its a great site if you’re into looking at the night sky and seeing what’s up there.

  2. buddy66 says:


    I can easily dance without rhythm.

  3. arkizzle says:

    Scuba, I enjoyed your idea about sunken containers on the seabed.

    However, your worries about affecting the local sealife are probably unfounded, so long as you choose a good area to locate at. The sprawling network of underwater containers could become a nature-reclaimed wilderness à la Angkor Wat, but populated by thermophiles.

    Beautiful :)

  4. chris lee says:

    Ride a SegWay = no gait.

  5. Stephen says:

    The fact that the competing satellite that M$ and Yahoo use, with similar resolution, has been operational for a year, makes this article silly.

  6. Anonymous says:

    The satellite is in a sun-synchronized, polar orbit (that’s why it took off from Vandenberg, CA instead of Cape Canaveral, FL). A polar orbit means that it’s orbiting the earth on a steeply inclined angle almost going over the poles, rather than along the equator like geosynchronized ones like communications do, or somewhat inclined like the shuttle or ISS do. Sun-synchronized means that time on the ground beneath the satellite is the same on every orbit. It’s common for these birds to pick 10:30am as a good time because the sun is high enough to give good light, and it’s early enough in the day that you don’t have afternoon thunderstorms in the summer. A quick look at the shadows on Google Earth shows that some images are AM (Washington, DC) but most high-rez stuff is around 4pm (NYC, Chicago). It’s possible to shift the time of a bird, but usually they stay put.

  7. paulimb says:

    With regard to the floating data center, does anyone else think any of their savings on power etc could be wiped out by having to buy floating security? If you just leave these expensive ass servers in open water, or even just offshore, I could see asian pirates or others thinking that they’re a pretty juicy target – you would have to hire security above the average rent-a-cop… Or maybe the savings are still worth it?

  8. LarsG says:

    And I, for one, welcome our new orbital gait-recognizing overlords.

  9. dougrogers says:

    Stay indoors. No shadow.

  10. Kacela says:

    Witness the rise of Skynet.

  11. Ugly Canuck says:

    Will the CIA get their own department of silly walks?

  12. lcohenq says:

    Could this be the much rumored Googleye?

  13. Jeff says:

    I would like to think that AI can emerge from the Google-verse. I’m not saying it’s going to be a human-mind analog, but then it doesn’t need to be. I think we should probably stay on good terms with it, because like God, it can remember everything you ever asked it for. Besides, there’s always somebody on top. Might as well be a non-organic mind that arises from our need for information (and lots and lots of porn). Could be worse.

  14. Frank_in_Virginia says:

    If you aren’t doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about.

  15. jeffbell says:

    I was told by a CIA employee that under good conditions they could tell if your watch had a TIMEX in the middle. And this was back in the early 80s.

  16. Santa's Knee says:

    @#19: Nice. :)

  17. Anonymous says:

    just face north all the time and they’ll think you’re a cow

  18. Chevan says:

    “I was told by a CIA employee that under good conditions they could tell if your watch had a TIMEX in the middle. And this was back in the early 80s.”

    Casino cameras can pick the serial numbers off dollar bills. Good cameras aren’t just the domain of the government anymore.

  19. sisyphus says:

    Heard about this on Talk of the Nation Science Friday a week or so ago. Not only has a poster already correctly pointed out that Google has no exclusive rights to the images, but for a fee, anyone can order a high-res satellite image of anywhere on the planet. They will also offer archived free imagery for various students and researchers with agreeable scientific studies.

    Since the satellite is in a polar orbit (a single orbit takes 98 minutes), it can photograph any given location on the planet, but depending on weather and day/night conditions, any given spot can only be photographed roughly every three days.

    However, due to US government restrictions, they have to resample the images at a slightly lower resolution. The official value, I believe, is half a meter.

  20. jimmitude says:

    Re: 21 & 23. I can’t tell you how, but I can tell you that you can see the dimples in a golf ball (and that was back in the 80′s.) Then again, I heard that certain US agencies were shocked by some Nikon lens because the anti-refractive coating was better than the stuff they had.

    That being said, it would be a challenge to find a person or track one with a satellite, because they either move over an area quickly (like 15 minutes from horizon to horizon) or it’s 23,000 miles up and looking at nearly a third of the earth’s surface.

  21. Anonymous says:

    Gilbert anonymous here again–I STILL can’t login–GRRRR–

    Because of medical problems i can’t regulate my body temperature so I use an umbrella whenever I go out in the sun. Hey–Isn’t this satellite useless on rainy days, cloudy days, and at night?

  22. Anonymous says:

    Google is the “exclusive online mapping site” customer for GeoEye-1 data; it is not the exclusive customer for the imagery. Many other customers, including and especially the NGA, will be using GeoEye-1 data.

    Also, the Google logo was on the launch vehicle, not the spacecraft, and Google did not pay for the placement.

  23. arkizzle says:

    #23 Sources?

  24. Takuan says:

    wouldn’t that sky event watching software with laptop and camera generate all the info needed to know when spy satellites were overhead? Wasn’t that posted here re: meteors etc.?

  25. Scuba SM says:

    It’d be interesting to do a cost study with waterproof containers simply placed on the seabed. A tethered barge could provide a satellite uplink, and by reducing/eliminating any insulation on the containers, you may eliminate the need for any active cooling system (ie, no pumps, fans, tubing, etc…). Of course, that would have to be balanced against the cost of waterproofing and strengthening the containers to withstand the pressures at the desired depth. You’d also have to take into account what sort of impact you’d have on the sealife on the bottom there, but you can find areas that are relatively devoid of sea life. It’d keep all but the most determined pirates away, too. For recovery, you could have lines with floats attached to the four corners of the container. When it needs to be pulled out, you simply send a message to release the floats, hook up your crane, and you’re good to go.

    Or maybe I’m just crazy.

  26. Takuan says:

    depth charges?

    someone recently posted a link mentioning that rich people’s floating city ship “Freedom”, an article by China somebody… very relevant read when considering this tax avoiding move by Google.

  27. marmorek says:

    “Either way, you may want to practice skipping from place to place when it is sunny out.”

    I think the Ministry of Silly Walks could be useful there.

  28. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for correcting the post – #27 is absolutely correct. #4/Xeni, there is nothing exclusive about the imagery sales, either. It’s just good publicity for GeoEye and Google to have the name on there.

  29. monstrinho_do_biscoito says:

    does the boss of google have a secret base in a volcano?

  30. Hamish says:

    “It can collect images from orbit with enough detail to show home plate on a baseball diamond.”

    I’m with #1 post. Here I sit at my desk in China looking at home plate in the San Francisco ball park. One can determine exactly how many seats are filled, and where the players are in the field.

  31. Willie McBride says:

    So, I was reading through GeoEye’s website but can’t find the information: which geographical areas can this satellite cover (North America, Europe, the whole world, etc. etc.)?

  32. freshyill says:

    For what it’s worth, the satellite images that Google already licenses can show home plate on a baseball diamond.,+pa&ie=UTF8&ll=39.90564,-75.166518&spn=0.000983,0.001263&t=h&z=20&iwloc=addr

    But I guess they’ll own the images now, so that saves them money (guess it’s cheaper to buy your own satellite than use somebody else’s pictures)

  33. Maussist says:

    Sounds like Cory will have to start walking around with those rocks in his shoes.

  34. Tejodo says:

    This is not a Google satellite. GeoEye is its own company, and the satellite is part of the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency’s NextView program. Of course Google still could buy or lease the images, but that’s not the same as saying they own the thing.

  35. Xeni Jardin says:

    @#3, correct, but as I understand it, the satellite will provide mapping data *exclusively* to Google.

  36. cmpalmer says:

    Is all of Google’s current imagery satellite or does some of it include aerial tiles?

    BTW, the 10cm resolution limit on known hardware is based on a lens/mirror size of around 2.5m. To get down to the resolution to read a watch or a newspaper would require a lens over 200 meters wide. That’s pretty much a function of optics and the wavelength of light, as we currently understand them, and doesn’t take into consideration atmospheric turbulence.

  37. Ugly Canuck says:

    I got an eye in the sky
    taking pictures that i don’t want to see.

  38. mdh says:

    also #3 – the word “Google” is on the side of the satellite in question.

    But so what?

    Google bought a whole generation of operational imaging satellites from the US Gov’t a couple months back. It’s 1970′s technology to the NSA, but still impressive.

  39. Chevan says:

    Hopefully this is another step on the way to a feasible AR setup.

  40. Ugly Canuck says:

    Apologies to Mr. Neil Young (a beautiful canuck) for stealing his lyric above, from the song “Bad News Beat”, found on the album “Landing On Water” (1986).

  41. RedMage13 says:

    If you walk without rhythm, you won’t attract the satellite.

  42. IamInnocent says:

    Call me stupid but what need has the World for this?

  43. Zebra05 says:

    I hope someone writes an application that will predict when the satellite is over your location. Maybe Google will do it. I look forward to the opportunity to place a message on my roof. Graffiti on a grand scale…

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