How to Pull Up a Satellite Picture of My Home

By Dee Shneiderman

Websites like Google Earth show images from government and private satellites.
i Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images

Satellite images of a home are views that one doesn’t normally see. The images can show information about a house including how it is situated on the lot, the condition of the roof at the time the image was shot, and the property’s situation in relation to neighboring plots. The map and image websites all obtain their images from the same sources but their various image update schedules are different. If your house is too new there may not be a photo of it yet -- you might see the empty lot it was later built on. If one site’s images are not clear or are not accurate, try another site. You may find more recent photos and possibly higher resolution pictures.

NASA’s Landsat Satellite Images

NASA Landsat Data Continuity Mission and other organizations that own satellites publish photos from the missions that continually fly over the globe. As they scan the earth, the satellite cameras shoot still photos constantly in swaths across the orbit. Although these images are very detailed and high-resolution for scientific purposes, the focus is on environmental, weather and geological details and not street-level mapping. That requires cartographers to work with the data.

Google Earth Maps

Google Earth purchases satellite maps and images from the U.S. Census Bureau’s “Topologically Integrated Geographic Encoding and Referencing” and information from the US Geological Survey. Google combines these images with their own Street View car and aircraft photos to build its maps. They compare the images to available NASA satellite images and then use sophisticated algorithms to make the map readable and as accurate as possible. The process takes months of data collocating and manual editing. Google updates its photos regularly, but they are usually one to three years old and the satellite views and street views may be different ages.

Microsoft Bing Maps

Bing, like Google, uses data and photos from NASA, the US Census Bureau and the US Geological Survey. Recently it has added many new maps from TerraColor, which uses NASA and USGS Landsat satellite images. Bing also uses fleets of cars and aircraft to photograph their version of the street view photos.

How to Search

In either Google Maps or Bing you can search by typing the home’s address, city, state and postal/ZIP code into the search box and it will bring up a wide area street map. On Google choose “Satellite View” by clicking on the Map icon at the upper right of the browser screen. On Bing select “Bird’s Eye” from the tabs above the map. The search engines will open the satellite photo. Click the “+” on the slider on the upper left to zoom to your house. To zoom in for a closer view click on the “+” sign at the upper left corner of the browser window. Print or save the images through the “File” menu on your browser. Select “Save” or “Print” from the menu and follow the directions on the drop-down menu.