See It First On Google Earth

Before the husband and I left for our trip to Russia, I got an aerial view of the city, the neighborhood, even the very apartment building where we would be staying in St. Petersburg. I did it with Google Earth.

Google Earth is a satellite imagery program that you have to download to your computer – it won’t work inside your web browser. But it’s free. And it’s just excellent.

I used Google Earth just the other day to look at the area where the kid will be staying in Seville next month while she studies for a certificate in teaching English. I pasted the address of the school building in the Google Earth search bar and it zoomed right to a satellite photo with the building marked off. You can zoom in and out, and the image is so clear that you can see individual buildings, streets, even cars and trees.


Enable the Google Community feature and you will see small circles scattered around the satellite photo. If you click on those, photographs of the particular landmarks and neighborhoods pop up. At some spots, you can call up Wikipedia entries that describe the locations. It’s so unbelievably cool.

Images of some areas are sharper than others. I can see the patio furniture at my mother-in-law’s former house on Long Island. But our own house in rural Connecticut is just a blur. (It’s kind of a blur from ground level, too, to be fair.)

Still, most inhabited areas are pretty well photographed for Google Earth. The images of Fianarantsoa, Madagascar are so clear that I was able to locate the exact building where my sister is living. 

You have to remind yourself sometimes that the images are not live (Google says the photographs are generally one to three years old). So Grandma isn’t going to come out on the porch and wave. But that speck there, in the deck chair … it looks just like her.


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