The Landsat 8 satellite was launched by NASA in 2013 to snap photos of Earth in higher detail than was possible before. This is an open project, so you can dig through all the data if you want. Today, we get to enjoy the benefits of Landsat 8 in a more convenient way. Google has rolled out improved worldwide satellite imagery in Google Earth and Maps using the data acquired by this satellite.
All the previous satellite mosaic data used by Google came from Landsat 7, which was the best available at the time. However, a hardware failure in 2003 caused newer images to be captured with diagonal gaps of missing data. Landsat 8 doesn't have that problem, and it has a camera capable of up to 15m per pixel resolution. The new Earth mosaic was assembled from nearly a petabyte of Landsat images to remove all the clouds that normally obscure a large swath of the globe.
The result is a stunning improvement in image quality for Google's mapping products on all platforms. You can access the prettier satellite images on Google Earth and from the satellite layer in Google Maps.
- Google Maps Blog