You can turn on layers in Google Earth to hide and show a variety of information. How do you turn on layers? Look in the layers pane, which will be in the lower left-hand side of your screen. Check the box next to the layer you would like to activate. You know the layer is selected because a checkmark will appear in front of the layer name. To turn it off again, uncheck the layer. (See picture below)

The best way to learn about the layers is to expand them by clicking on the plus sign to see the sub-layers. Activate the ones you are interested in to see what they do! Most layers appear by adding a series of icons to the earth. Click on one of the icons to see the media associated with it. I have outlined a few layers that I enjoy below and how to find them in Google Earth.

3D Buildings

Location in Layers: 3D Buildings > Photorealistic

What does it do? When this layer is activated, you can fly to several famous landmarks or big cities to see a 3D version.


Earth City Lights

Location in Layers: NASA > Earth City Lights
What does it do? This layer allows you to view the earth at night.


Gigapxl Photos

Location in Layers: Gigapxl Photos
What does it do? Gigapixl Photos gives you high-quality photos of the earth. When you click on the picture, you can "zoom into" the picture itself. Google Earth will "overlay" the photo on top of the horizon of where the picture is located. You can then zoom into the photo to see incredible details. This is an incredible layer to explore.

Gigapan Photos

Location in Layers: Gigapan Photos

What does it do? Gigapan photos are similar to gigapxl photos. However, there are several gigapan photos that allow you to "look" around by 180 degrees and zoom into the picture. There is a wonderful example of one of these in Time Square NY and in Atlanta, Georgia ("Atlanta Skyline") - shown below.


National Geographic Sights and Sounds

Location in Layers: National Geographic Magazine > Sights and Sounds

What does it do? This layer is sponsored by National Geographic and hyperlinks to movies and audio associated with each piece of media that you click on. For example, this icon (shown below) was found in the mid-west in the USA and links to an 8 minute movie about tornadoes.

Africa Megaflyover

Location in Layers: National Geographic Magazine > Africa Megaflyover

What does it do? Obviously this layer is for Africa only. Click the red airplane icons to see wonderful aerial photos of Africa.