A few months back, Google Earth team and NASA began a collaborative effort to bring awareness and promote knowledge of NASA's "earth" programs. After months of production, the "NASA" layer group is now live in Google earth.

Personally, I find it quite eye-catching. People are usually familiar with NASA's space missions, but not everyone knows that NASA also devotes a considerable amount of effort to Earth explorations. This new NASA layer group showcases some of their most interesting content.

The new "NASA" layer has three components:

  • Astronaut Photography of Earth
  • Satellite Imagery
  • Earth City Lights

Beginning with the Mercury missions in the early 1960s, astronauts have taken photographs of the Earth. The "Astronaut Photography of Earth" layer showcases some of the best of photos from the online Astronaut Photography collection.

The "Satellite Imagery" layer highlights some of the most interesting Earth imagery taken by NASA satellites over the years. Some placemarks also offer the option of downloading additional imagery from different years or seasons and overlaying them on the earth's surface. Being a space program lover, I used to spend hours on the NASA website looking at these photos, so it's nice to have them at my fingertips. Be sure to check out the satellite image overlays of continuous eruption of Mt. Etna at 37.730000°, 15.000000° if you are a volcano lover like me.

"Earth City Lights" offers a new perspective on this popular image. One can identify some interesting urbanization patterns around the globe. I find it even more interesting to have roads and placename layers on at the same time as I fly over this layer. The United States interstate highway system appears as a lattice connecting the brighter dots of city centers. The Trans-Siberian railroad also shows up as a thin line stretching from Moscow through the center of Asia to Vladivostok. The Nile River can be viewed from a distance as another bright thread through an otherwise dark region. I really enjoy flying to different places around the globe, finding unexpected things and thinking about what the cause might be.

In other news, we've also updated the European roads in Google Earth, adding 15 new countries in Europe, as well as adding more content for the Netherlands, like business listings layers and country names in Dutch. Check out these new and updated layers if you are planning a trip to Europe.