I love technologies, especially those changing people’s life. Just as ClearType and MovableType, the TerraServer is always my favoriate when I need to show somethinng amazing to my friends. Using TerraServer, you can see anybody’s house like a hawk. It gives you the real photographic picture about any location in U.S.
If you have any valid U.S. address, you can see the house from the sky. For example, if you know the address of the famous Space Needle in Seattle:
400 Broad St.
Seattle, WA, 91109
You can get the following image free of charge.
Image courtesy of the U.S. Geological Survey
See the UFO-like tower in the middle of the picture?
How to get the sattelite image of any place in U.S.
It is simple two-steps. Step 1, get the precious latitude and longtitude of the location. Step 2, query it in the TarrerServer.
Get the percise location of the place
The easiest way is to use MapPoint. It can convert any location in U.S. to geographic metrics. For example, if we want to find out where Space Needle is, enter the following information in to Mappoint
400 Broad St.
Seattle, WA, 91109
It looks like this. Click Get Map button.
As luck would have have it, you will get map of Space Needle as blow:
Put the URL to get the aerial image
Now it is the time for you to copy the URL of page containing the map and paste it into the box blow. Remember to copy all the content in the address box of your browser. Then click the button below to get the aerial picture of location shown in the map. A seperate browser window will pop up.
On Error Resume Next
strURL = frm.MappointURL.Value
arrParam = Split(strURL, “&”)
For Each strParam in arrParam
If Left(strParam,1) = “C” Then
arrLatLng = Split(strParam, “%2c”)
intLat = Mid(arrLatLng(0), 3)
intLong = arrLatLng(1)
strTerraURL = “http://terraserver-usa.com/image.aspx?Lon=” + intLong + “&Lat=” + intLat + “&w=1&ref=G|” + intLat + “,” + intLong
Does it work?
If you see the map of the location, congratulations! You can even zoom in at MapPoint and you can compare the map and the sattelite picture. Here is the zoomed map for Space Needle.
Compare with the sattelite picture above and you will find it very interesting that they match each other exactly.
If it does not work, there may be some problem with either the URL or my code. Here is the trick behind the code.
You can get the latitude and longtidue directly from MapPoint URL. In our Space Needle case, the URL is
Notice the part in red? It is Latitude and Longtitude of the location (after removing the seperator “%2c”). Using these numbers to query at http://terraserver-usa.com/geographic.aspx and you will get the same result.
One step further
The astonishing thing in this modern world is, you know everything. You can go one step further. You can see may people’s house from a single telephone number. Want to have a try? Here is a sample. The phone number of Space Needle Administration is
You can open a browser, go to http://google.com, paste the number (206) 905-2100 into the search box, and click Search.
Here we go. Here is the information returned as the whitepage feature of Google:
Space Needle, Administrative Office, (206) 905-2200, 203 6th Ave N, Seattle, WA 98109
Now you have the address and you know what to do next.
This trick works for most business and personal phone numbers, but you cannot always find the address from a phone number.
The images in TerraServer is provided by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). The images are in the public domain, and are freely available for download and re-distribution. The highest resolution is 1 meter for 1 pixel, which means every single pixel of the image represent 1 pixel of the land. So you can recognize cars, houses but not individuals.
What do you think
At least I was very astonished to find out that everyone’s house is open for visitors from the sky. I have tried to many locations I received and feel a little bit worried what if someone combine these pictures with a hidden GPS data in your car? They can see your car on the screen as you move. :-(
Update May 30, 2003
Thanks Li Jingyi for commeting below and refered me to Space Imaging. I have ever seen the Shanghai 2002 photo somewhere else but didn’t realize it comes from Space Imaging.
There are so mucn larger, better and color sattelite images on the site. Here are some most interesting one I saw on the site:
Lishui, Hainan Island, South China Sea
If someone print it out and it can be the best map possible in the world for that area. I even think treking around the area is also interesting with the help of this “map”.