In the search for the missing Malaysian airliner, many folks are wondering why the satellite imagery of debris floating in the Indian Ocean is blurry. I mean, Google satellites can see your house in your driveway and the pool chairs in the backyard, so why not debris from an enormous passenger plane?
Well, the answer is that Google doesn't use satellites to create Google Earth, for the most part. Most of those photos, especially the zoomed-in ones, are taken by aerial photographers in airplanes.
Google does use satellites for some of the really remote regions on earth, but these images certainly aren't live. So those well-meaning folks that flocked to Google Earth to help in the search were mistaken.
"That being said, there are satellites that can take pictures of objects on the ground with an impressive amount of clarity. The United States government demonstrated that it has the ability to clearly see objects on the ground from space when it released images of Osama bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan in 2011. None of these satellites are available to the public, of course, but they do exist."
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