GSDA:Obtaining Image Data from MSN TerraServer

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The new TerraServer USA site offers USGS Topographic maps as well as aerial photos in the JPEG format for the United States, with limited coverage of Canada, Puerto Rico, and Mexico. Along with the topo maps and aerial photos, TerraServer provides the GIS world file, which aids in geo-referencing the image in some software.

First of all you must go to the TerraServer USA site at Or use the MSN TerraServer button or link under the MSN TerraServer section.

Once at MSN TerraServer there are three main methods to choose from:

  1. Navigating the map.
  2. TerraServer search panel.
  3. Advanced Find search.

Navigating the map on TerraServer USA

Navigating the map is an easy way to find the place you are looking for.

  1. In the center of the webpage there will be an international coverage map which shows where TerraServer contains imagery for the world (highlighted green).
    NOTE: Most of the data will pertain to the USA and close neighbors.
  2. For this walkthrough, click on the USA. The coverage map will zoom in.
  3. Click on the map again on the state of Utah.
    NOTE: You are now zoomed all the way in on the coverage map. The next click will take you to the images on The National Map.
    HINT: If you are looking for another area there are a few tools that you may use to get there from here.
  4. Click on the most likely place you believe Salt Lake City to be. Now you are looking at The National Map on TerraServer. Here you will be able to view topo maps, and black and white aerial photos. If available you may also view color DOQs.
    NOTE: Navigation here is tricky and difficult because there are no location labels on the map. But there is a location name and most recent photo indicator above the map window.
  5. If the title indicates Salt Lake City, Utah, then you're close enough. If not then pan around until you get Salt Lake City. The image should look something like that below.
  6. After you have found the image above zoom in on the white dot indicated by the arrow.
  7. Continue zooming in until you recognize that it is the Delta Center. You can get very close.
  8. Now click on the Download link in the top upper-right hand border of the map window.
  9. Right click anywhere on the map/photo image and choose Save Picture As....
  10. Change the filename to something more recognizable (example: deltacenter), and save it somewhere to your computer you can find easily.
  11. You have the image file, now you need the world file. Click on the World File link in the top upper-right hand border of the map window, (it is in the same row as the Download link).
  12. Once again save the file to an easily accessible location on your computer.
    HINT: It is best to save the world file to the same location as the image file. Also rename the world file to the same as that of the image file and change the extension to *.jpw. For example, if you saved the image file as deltacenter.jpg, then name the world file deltacenter.jpw. Upon importing the image file, some software simultaneously looks for a world file with the same filename prefix in order to automatically geo-reference the image.

You now have all the relevant files in order to import the image into WMS.

Using the TerraServer USA search panel

The search panel is located in the left-hand column on the TerraServer site.


It is a quick find search engine. All you really need to do is type in keywords pertaining to the street, city, and state address names for your area of interest. If you know the coordinates of the place you may also type those in to find the location.

Street, City, State address search:

  1. For a pass-through type "main" in the Street field, "salt lake city" in the City field, and "utah" in the State field. Hit the GO button next to the State field. A list of matching address choices will pop up on an Advanced Find page.
    NOTE: Imagery available for the matches is listed on the right side of the page.
  2. Investigate your choices to see if any match where you are searching for. Find N Main St, Salt Lake City, UT 84103. Click on the Urban Areas image link. You will be taken directly to The National Map, zoomed in as close as possible, with a red pin symbol indicating the exact address match.
    NOTE: Your location of interest may not be listed. Try different keywords in the field boxes for varying results.
  3. Zoom out two steps to get a wider view of the area.
  4. You have found Temple Square in Salt Lake City.

Coverage Map search:

It is possible to click on the miniature coverage map in the search panel. By doing so you will be immediately taken to The National Map. From there you may navigate as you please.

Longitude, Latitude coordinate search:

If you happen to know the decimal degree coordinates of a place you can type them into the field boxes and hit the GO button. You will be taken directly to the specified coordinates on The National Map where you can navigate further.

NOTE: Wherever you are on The National Map a yellow dot will appear in the corresponding spot on the miniature coverage map of the US in the search panel. Similarly, the coordinates of the location will also appear in the Latitude – Longitude field boxes.

Using the Advanced Find search on TerraServer USA

The Advance Find search tool is in the toolbar at the top of the website.


There are four options in the Advanced Find tool:

  1. Address
  2. Place
  3. Decimal Degrees
  4. DMS (Degrees, Minutes, Seconds)


Address search:

Works simply by typing in the relevant name for Street, City and State fields. Also includes a Zip Code field for matching. Once entered, selecting the GO button will process the request and return a list of matching addresses. Image data accessible will be linked to each choice.
HINT: If your place does not come up vary the keywords in the search.

Place search:

Type in the common place name and a list will be produced with all matching references.
HINT: If your place does not come up vary the keywords in the search.

Decimal Degrees search:

If you have the latitude and longitudinal coordinates of the point in question, input them and you will be taken directly to the National Map when you hit the GO button.
NOTE: Remember to reference the degrees properly from the prime meridian (west-negative, east-positive), and the equator (north-positive, south-negative).

DMS search:

Similar to the previous method, but different in how the coordinates are input.
NOTE: Be sure to distinguish the correct direction latitudinal (north-south), and longitudinal (east-west).