Above you can see the first image taken by the GeoEye-1, Google’s very own satellite. They don’t own it outright – they share it with the American National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, which collects and analyses geographical data for national security purposes.
It’s got a whoppingly good resolution –
it can read car number plates from orbit (update: as whoppingly smart commenter Jason points out, number plates aren’t a metre across), but reassuringly Google won’t have access to images that good. This is due to US governmental restrictions and the fact the Google is sharing the satellite.
Most low-down imagery on Google Maps is currently sourced from aerial and satellite photography – something that isn’t widely available in many areas across the globe. The new satellite will allow Google to spend less on buying up that sort of imagery, as well as increasing the resolution of more rural areas across the globe.
Google Maps UK (via Mashable)