There are thousands of satellites overhead in space right now, and many of them are being used to map every single square meter of planet Earth. And many of these images are being freely distributed on the Internet so you can access them through any browser. If you’re looking for a satellite map, there are many services out there that can help you out.
Probably the easiest and best place to start is with the Google Maps service from Google. This allows you to see a satellite map of the entire Earth. You can drag around the map to browse around the planet, and you can zoom out and in right down to the highest resolution images they have in their server. In many cases this means you can see your house, your yard, and even your car parked out in the street. You can also type in a specific address location and go straight there. There are street maps you can overlay or remove, you can get driving directions, and much more. And the Google Maps API has been made available by Google to other websites, so people are developing mashups that let you track running routes and find the nearest bathroom.
An even cooler satellite mapping service is Google Earth. Unlike Google Maps, you have to download Google Earth to your local PC, Mac or Linux machine (there’s even an iPhone version). Then you get this cool spinning 3-D version of the Earth. You can zoom out and in, type in a specific location address or geocode to find any spot on Earth. They also have a big library of additional layers that you can put over top, to see additional information mapped on the Earth. It’s well worth the download.
Another good service is TerraServer; they let you buy satellite maps if you want a nice printed version for your wall. If you don’t want to use Google, there are similar mapping tools from Microsoft and Yahoo.
We have written many articles about how satellites are being used to map the Earth. Here’s an article about how scientists use satellite photos to track penguin poop from space, and how Google’s maps had a satellite view of Obama’s inauguration.
We have also recorded an episode of Astronomy Cast all about Earth. Listen here, Episode 51: Planet Earth.